Archive for June, 2015

Media Update 6/25/2015

June 25, 2015

Not much new to discuss this week as I’ve been watching a lot of the same stuff that I’ve mentioned before. However…

Jimmy Buffet: Workin’ and Playin’ Concert Tour

Last Saturday we took my mom to see Jimmy Buffet in concert in Bristow, VA in honor of her 60th birthday which was last year. Several plans fell through when trying to find the appropriate way to celebrate but, thanks to my brother Alex, we were able to celebrate in style anyway.

The adventure started by driving out to Bristow and the Jiffy Lube Live Pavillion. My mom put together a lot of barbecue and we proceeded to tailgate along with pretty much everybody else in attendance. Of course, my mom also made what I call “Orange Margaritas” which are full of ground up oranges, limes, lemons and what tastes like roughly all of the alcohol. I was buzzed after one cup. The tiredness I had felt from the humidity vanished and I took it upon myself to find my brother who had driven separately.

After using the power of Bon Jovi to reunite with Alex, we all continued to chow down on barbecue and drink margaritas. About fifteen minutes later there was a tornado warning and we barely got back into the car before a torrential downpour swept through the area. With no twitter updates from the venue, we were left with the dilemma of whether we should try to head inside or stay in the car. Eventually, the rain slacked off and we headed to our seats which were safely covered from the rain.

Eight o’clock hit which is when the concert was scheduled to start and Jimmy and some of the Coral Reefers hit the stage to lots of cheers but no pomp and circumstance. Jimmy launched into his version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in honor of our near misses from tornadoes and the passing storm. Afterward, he announced a delay of about fifteen minutes. This was super classy as he gave us a little treat instead of having somebody make the announcement over a PA system.

The concert eventually started and it was really great. Jimmy Buffett is a great performer and seems like a guy who just loves to entertain and have a good time. He actually played a lot of songs that I hadn’t heard before and covers of other musicians I had heard before. Notably, he played “5 O’Clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson which makes sense as Jackson has played Margaritaville in concert. I sang along to the songs I knew and bounced to the rhythm and I had a great time and so did the rest of the family.

The place had a real party atmosphere and I definitely was entertained by the crowd sometimes as much as the entertainers on stage. I’d like to shout out to three guys in particular. The first I call “White Guy Dancer” who was directly in front of me. He danced to every song with a lot of passion but no skill or rhythm. The other two guys I call the “Buffet Bros” who looked younger than me with shaved heads. They did loosely choreographed dance routines to each song and fist pounded each other like true bros. They were weird but harmless.

If I had any complaint, it was that the vocals were mixed a little too low as I would have loved to hear the lyrics of the songs I was unfamiliar with. It was super fun and I was exhausted by the end, riding home with my ears ringing but knowing my mom was happy with her present.


Media Update 6/18/15

June 18, 2015

Into the Woods (2014)

So I finally saw Into the Woods, the big budget Disney adaptation of a stage musical that’s been around for a dog’s age. I’ve always heard a lot about the musical from a lot of different friends and colleagues. When I was a theater major in college I heard a lot about it and more recently I befriended some people who are huge fans. I have never seen any stage version but I definitely want to see it now.

I was somewhat wary of seeing this movie because it was another musical headlined by Meryl Streep and I still have shell shock from her performance Mamma Mia. I was worried for nothing. The movie was actually really, really good. The characters are really interesting and actually fairly complex for fairytale characters. The music alone could earn it a spot in a redone Top 11 Musicals list (actually Agony alone could). The child actors they chose knocked it out of the park which is not common for child actors. There were also excellent performances from James Corden, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and (shocker) Meryl Streep.

Go out and snag a copy while I start looking for opportunities to see the stage version. I hear they changed a lot of stuff and I want to check it out.


Reality Television

I’ve been thinking lately about reality television programming. When it first emerged I was definitely on the front lines in the fight against it. There are a lot of shows that people love that I roll my eyes at and I will probably never respect. I am a diehard fan of fiction and reality television is often the enemy of the more creative people who create fiction. It elevates more or less talentless people to celbrity and generally wastes our time.

However, maybe I formed that opinion a little too hastily. There are exceptions to every rule and, while mileage may vary, I have come up with a list of reality shows that I like and hold above the others.


Kitchen Nightmares

Gordon Ramsay was introduced to the American public and almost immediately became a cartoon exaggeration. I think he cashed in on that in a lot of ways but it is still very clearly an exaggeration. The episodes I’ve seen of Kitchen Nightmares have actually featured a fairly earnest and low key Gordon Ramsay who dishes out thoughtful advice. He gets forceful when he feels he’s not getting through but otherwise seems like a nice guy. Also, one episode was filmed within walking distance of my apartment.


Heroes of Cosplay

I really like this show. I like cosplay as an artform and as an expression of fandom. It’s one of my favorite things about walking around a convention. There are a few insincere, unlikeable people on the show but part of that is probably in the editing. Through the show I did become a fan of Chloe Dykstra, Holly Conrad and Jessica Merizan who all seemed excited, creative and friendly. Besides those three, what sold me on the show was the fact that the main cast often didn’t win the real costume contests they entered in and we got to see a lot of awesome homemade costumes. So this one always seemed a little less rigged to me.


Guild Grumps

Alright, so this only had five one hour episodes but I enjoyed it immensely. It may have been a little too ambitious as it attempted to be a reality show while parodying reality shows. It also tried to showcase the pros and cons of the World of Warcraft and MMORPGs in general. It may have crashed and burned but it was entertaining while it failed. It may be a little more entertaining if you’re more familiar with the people involved but I thought it was interesting on its own. It also featured a last minute addition of Holly Conrad since she is married to show creator and host Ross O’Donovan.

Top 11 Disney Animated Films

June 13, 2015

Top 11

I have found myself using the phrase “I’m a huge Disney nerd” a lot lately so I thought I’d prove it by doing a Top 11 Disney Animated films. This does not include films produced by Pixar because that’s a whole list by itself. I also don’t include any movies by Studio Ghibli because Disney just did the American distribution. There’s also numerous other studios that obviously won’t make this list.  These are films that were important to me growing up or spoke to me in more recent times.

11 Alice in Wonderland (1951)

I read Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass at a fairly young age but I’m reasonably sure that the Disney cartoon was my first exposure to the stories. The world of Alice is fantastic and illogical while still having a certain logic to it. As I grew up, I realized that the books were filled with logic problems, puzzles and riddles but the first time reading it I didn’t know all of that. I liked the story of a young girl travelling through a world that doesn’t making any sense that grows increasingly scary. As in the book, she realizes that none of it is real and wakes up. As I grew, I often wondered about how much she was willing to believe until she refused to believe anymore. The voice acting was very good (for its time) and I especially liked the proper British speech of Alice.

10 Beauty and the Beast (1991)

From a young age I was very interested in books and reading in general. Reading was something I grasped early on and being transported into other worlds was something I clung to. My life was good but there were people having adventures and my imagination wanted fuel to create adventures of my own. Because of all that, I identified heavily with the character of Belle and I have since identified with a lot of the dreamers in fiction. As a kid the story didn’t really effect me the way it does now and even now it’s not the story that sucks me in. I love the songs and all the little side characters and the bizarre world where all of the inanimate objects are characters. The animation is beautiful and definitely still holds up after all of this time. The music is fun and pretty timeless. The voice actors are all great but I especially love Jerry Orbach and Lumiere. That must have been a lot of fun to do.

9 The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King came very near the height of my animation hysteria in the part of my childhood when I thought I might be an animator later on. The Lion King’s animation totally blew me away with how fluid and beautiful it was and, as Frank Sinatra sang, the best was yet to come. Still, Disney really outdid itself with this movie. The voice acting is really great even though they succumbed to the pitfall of using celebrities instead of seasoned voice actors. The music was really well done and I sang along to Just Can’t Wait to Be King and Hakuna Matata everyday for a little while. One of my big problems with the movie is that the main character is kind of entitled and looks forward to adulthood for all the wrong reasons. Of course, part of his journey is learning from those mistakes and earning his place of honor. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to respect the character Scar more as a dynamic and fun villain and the probably the first villain song I really enjoyed.

8 The Little Mermaid (1989)

Once again, yearning for a new world and wondering about a life beyond what I saw around me were themes that resonated with me. It’s not that I had a bad childhood but nobody has a childhood that’s without its bumps. Like many children I felt unpopular and unliked as a kid, a feeling that actually grew well into high school and in some forms exists today. When Ariel sings about the world “Up There” I think about all the times I wasn’t invited to a party or when I was picked last for kickball games. Don’t get me wrong, I always had friends but every so often I wondered what being a popular kid was like. At the same time, like Ariel, I wanted to be different and I really reveled in the differences between me and the other kids. Of course, I realized all of that later in life, when I was a teenager. The main thing that actually attracted me when I was younger was the music. Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright and Rene Auberjonois (no really, Odo had a cameo as a French chef) made songs that were a lot of fun to sing along to and enjoy.

7 Tangled (2010)

Depression is a hell of a thing. Depression lies. Even now I hesitate to call what I have bouts of “depression” because depression just calls me an idiot and to stop faking for attention. I don’t feel depressed right now but I definitely go through it from time to time. It’s just bad brain chemistry and it’s hard to get through but one thing that has always helped me fight it off or pull out of the pit is a good song or a good movie. That’s why I talk so much about the stuff I love here, because it really, really means something to me. Tangled was a movie that briefly cast sunshine on a dark period in New Jersey where I had very conflicting feelings about my life. The fluid animation, great music and slapstick humor almost always elicits a smile. The ending just feels really good to me too but I won’t spoil it here. The music is very good and a lot of it feels spontaneous and improvised while being polished at the same time (if that makes sense).

6 The Princess and the Frog (2009)

I love jazz music I like it a lot but not enough to listen to it regularly as many other genres float my boat more regularly. I love the big band sort of jazz that is loud and brassy and full of vibrating, bubbling energy. I love the kind of music that Dr. John sings. What a coincidence, Dr. John sings the very first song in the movie!  I have never been to New Orleans but it’s always been spoken of with almost mythical reverence, especially by the jazz community. The art style and voice acting does a great job of setting the scene in a unique setting. It also takes us back to a different time period pretty effortlessly. The music is downright infectious and I especially like “When We’re Human”. I like the different twist on an old fairy tale with the added theme of working hard to make your dreams a reality but not too hard.

5 Wreck it Ralph (2012)

I love video games. I have loved video games ever since I laid eyes on (but was not allowed to touch) the Atari and watched somebody play Donkey Kong. Not long after we got an NES and I was hooked for life as a console gamer. I also hung out with my brothers and friends in several different arcades around town, pumping quarters for another few minutes of fun. This movie made me so nostalgic for those days of playing the hardest games kids were ever tortured with. The movie itself is really funny and also endearing and charming. I have to admit that I’ve done things in my life solely for the reward. I once ran for class president in high school just to see how many votes I could get. I’m not proud of it nor am I proud of hounding the teacher in charge when I never got an exact count. Later that year I actually won an award for service in the drama department and that felt way better. So I really love the theme of not trying so hard to be something you’re not and instead being the best you that you can be.

4 Big Hero 6 (2014)

This is the most recent animated Disney film I’ve seen. The art style, while similar to other recent movies, is also kind of infused with an anime feel which makes sense. The movie takes place in a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo. I read some of the first run of the comic and Big Hero 6 was supposed to be Japan’s official superhero team. While that movie would have been cool, the movie we got was incredibly creative and had a ton of heart. The movie dealt with a lot of tough issues like death in the family but managed to stay lighthearted enough to not get me down. It’s definitely not your typical superhero movie but Disney’s Marvel Studios has proved that it doesn’t always go where you think they will go. This movie surprised me with how good it was and I think it really deserved to win the Academy Award. I really hope that they can write a successful sequel because I will definitely see it opening weekend.

3 Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin was the first soundtrack I ever owned and listened to until the casette tape was nearly worn out. I can sing along to most of the songs (except Friend Like Me. How did he breathe during that?) and I really enjoy doing so. This movie both started my extreme fandom of Robin Williams and it was also the first time I realized that voice actors are people. Aladdin is the story of a poor kid making it to the top with luck and his wits. It’s also the story of being rewarded for both being true to who you are and a good person. The main characters are flawed people but come through fire. Besides the great music, great story and great characters, I also have a very personal connection with this movie. When I had heart surgery in fifth grade to fix the double aortic arch that I was born with, this was the movie they let me watch in the ICU. So it’s also the only Disney movie I’ve watched on heavy drugs.

2 Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

I think this might be the movie that I’ve mentioned most in this blog and it is a movie that I will probably always be fascinated with. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered more and more that I like about it. When I first saw it, I was a huge Tim Burton fan and fascinated with the macabre elements of Halloween. As I grew up, I still loved the dark elements married to the comedy elements but I began to appreciate the craft of stop-motion animation. I started to understand the story more and that led me to imagine the world they had created beyond the bounds of the story. What was Easterland like? What was Thanksgivingland like? As I watched it again in my adult years I now understood the parts about depression and self-discovery and creativity. I am always inspired by this movie and I love consuming anything connected to it.

1 Frozen (2013)

What more can be said about this movie? The movie became a phenomenon overnight and most people I know either love it or are apathetic. I actually thought I was going to hate it because the early trailer absolutely turned me off. It said nothing about what the movie was about but that actually worked in my favor. I wrote the movie off and filed it away somewhere in my brain. It came into theaters and left and I still had not watched it. Now, I had no idea at the time that Kristen Bell played Anna in the movie which would have swayed me as a Veronica Mars superfan. Also, had I known that Frozen had the same songwriters as Avenue Q and Book of Mormon I might have taken notice. No. I heard rave reviews and just decided to watch it one day. I love it now. The characters are so interesting, the acting is excellent and the story is a little bit different from what I’ve seen before in Disney movies. They’re are deep psychological stories being told just under the surface of a straightforward tale about the bond between two siblings. The music is amazing and Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel blew me away with how well they did with it. I definitely recommend this one and I promise I won’t get mad if you don’t like it. Just ask my brother.

Media Update 6/11/2015

June 11, 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man 2


I really liked The Amazing Spider-Man as I thought that everyone involved did a really good job at establishing a well-balanced and grounded Spider-Man movie. The sequel brought a lot of what I liked back. The visuals are amazing and fun and really give you a feel of what it’s like to be Spider-Man. A lot of the dialogue is really great and I especially enjoy the Spider-Man quips just like he did in the comics and cartoon shows from my childhood. I really wanted to like this movie and I guess I liked it well enough. However, the pacing was off and it didn’t feel like there was any dramatic tension. Nothing looked especially difficult for the hero to overcome at least in my opinion. It also felt like they tried to cram too much in as Green Goblin and Rhino could have been cut out and they could have simplified the Gwen Stacy romance a bit. Still worth watching though.




Alright. I see you looking at me funny for posting a trailer for 2003’s Daredevil instead of the awesome Daredevil TV show that I’ve already raved about. Don’t worry, I have a point. I finished watching Season One the night before last and it was an awesome end to an awesome season. I can’t wait for Season 2.


But I’ve already praised the Netflix show so what was my point again? Oh right. I’ve said it before (and gotten death glares for it) but I like the 2003 Daredevil movie. It’s written down now and entered into the ledger forever. Is the Netflix show better? Yes. Is it a better adaptation? Yes, of course. Does that mean that Daredevil (2003) sucks? No. In all seriousness, I do like the movie but I insist on only watching the Director’s cut which is much more watchable. I was actually shocked when people started to rip the movie apart because I didn’t think it was that bad.


The movie is actually well acted in its quieter moments. I thought that Ben Affleck did a good job at playing a character struggling with internal conflict while trying to protect a city. I really like the concept behind the visualization of the sonar abilities. The action and story arc fit the kind of popcorn movie this should have been.


I think that’s the major problem with the movie that people can’t get past. The movie has tone problems and can’t decide what it wants to be. One minute Matt Murdock is draped in shadow and dealing with shadows of Catholic guilt and then the next he’s wire fighting with Elektra in broad daylight out of costume. The movie tried to straddle the line between Batman Forever and The Dark Knight and failed. Also, because it was the early 2000’s it suffered from a horrible overuse of CGI and wirefighting. Still, I enjoy it for the deeply flawed movie it is. It definitely deserved to be better but it doesn’t deserve the epic pile of hate that is usually shoveled onto it.


Trailers on Youtube (Update)


Last time I broached this subject I ranted about having two different trailers for Pitch Perfect 2 rammed down my throat. It pissed me off but I might have been a little hasty. I’ve since spoken with people who liked the movie and they confirmed the trailers were awful. Was I going to see the movie? Probably not. However, that probably not turned into definitely not when the trailers annoyed me. I’m sure Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2 have their audiences just like Melissa McCarthy films have their audience. Now they’re doing it again with Ted 2 and with each trailer I want to see it less and less. I don’t mind seeing ads on videos online but not the same one over and over and over.

X’s Guide to the Paranormal: The Decision

June 8, 2015

X's Guide

This passage is to educate all newcomers to the town about what we call The Decision. At the risk of sounding cliche, the Decision has been passed down for centuries ever since the founding of our community soon after the second goblin war was over. Since the citizens of this town were trapped forever, those who made the rules worried that the town would become overcrowded. For better or for worse, between The Decision and the usual predation levels, the town has maintained a steady population.

As you may read elsewhere in this guide, the town proper is surrounded by very wild lands that aren’t very hospitable to human beings. The town borders are clearly drawn in the map section and are virtually impassable to anyone trying to leave. However, there are ways into the greater area around the town where one can find fantastic beasts. However, there are also beings of culture and intelligence there as well.

The Decision is as follows: At the age of sixteen, each new full citizen of the town is given a choice. They can either remain human or they can walk through the barrier around the town and join the wild. A person has to be sure on their choice because there is no going back. There is only the path ahead and where it takes you.

The following information is taught to children as to let them make an informed choice when they become an adult. These are the choices beyond humanity that each person faces.

The Goblins

I’ve gathered from recent visitors that the world at large has a negative view of goblins formed from books and popular media. This could not be farther from the truth. Well, it could be a little farther. The goblins are rough customers but they’re not inherently evil nor inherently good. They live under the hills to the north and also deep under the town. Their skin is scales and their strength is legendary. They have a tribal culture that honors strength and bravery, a simple torchlit existence.

The Werewolves

While it is well known that there are werewolves in town, the wilder ones live out in Jameson Forest. Still, they are the very definition of the noble savage and live an honorable life as long as the world of man does not interfere. Not much is known about what happens in Jameson Forest since few would dare to cross the werewolves. Treat any werewolf like you would a normal wolf in the woods. The only difference is that they speak English.

The Fae

Faery culture is deceptively civilized. They are educated and wise and their words wind around you like the gentle caress of somebody you love and trust. Be very wary of this. The Fae live in a very magical and enticing world that you may want to join. The Fae will do anything to ensnare mortals into their debt or service. They operate in two opposing factions but do not let them convince you that either side is good or evil. Use a civil tongue and keep your wits about you and you may survive their politics.


Of course, the final choice is to stay here with us and embrace the madness that we live with everyday. Embrace your humanity and use this guide to navigate the wonderful and terrifying world that I’ve dealt with since my birth. It’s your choice.

The Mystery Part 4

June 6, 2015

The Mystery

Scott stood and turned toward the newcomer and made sure to keep his staff at the ready just in case. Whoever it was stepped from the shadows using slow, deliberate steps. They wore a hard plastic mask that was divided down the middle. One half was black and the other half was white. Their hair was long and impossibly straight and was dyed black and white to match the mask. The rest of their body was covered in what looked like black swat gear so that absolutely no skin was showing. They stood practically motionless with a very unnatural stillness.

“Who are you?” Scott asked, pointing at the stranger with his staff. If truth were told he was a little disappointed he hadn’t been the one to deliver Trixshot to the authorities. It shortened his temper a little bit.

“Such a paradox. Asking a man with a mask who he is.” They answered. Their voice was distorted by a voice changer which made it hard to tell who they were. It also made it hard to read emotion in their voice.

“What?” Scott asked, wrinkling his brow with a frown so much that he was almost afraid his domino mask would slip off. He silently thanked whatever forces that had invented strong special effects glue.

“A private joke. Sorry.” They chuckled. The sound was absolutely mirthless coming through the voice changer and more than a little creepy. “I am the Shadowtaker and I’ve been following you for quite some time.”

“Following me?” Scott asked and immediately kicked himself for not using the obvious “shadowing” pun. “Why are you following me?”

“Many people have donned costumes to either fight crime or commit crime. Some of those have incredible abilities and I have observed your healing powers from afar. Pretty soon those with special powers and abilities will outnumber the normal people in costumes. We need to prepare and preserve the balance.”

“I was an English Lit major and even I couldn’t say what any of that really meant. Yeah, I know there are people with powers. It’s kind of scary but I’m doing my best out here. If you want to help then great but A) you’re being over-dramatic and B) you’re being vague.”

“I apologize. I’m looking for people who can maintain the balance. This world needs order and a lot of force is required to bring about that order.”

“I know it’s kind of hypocritical but that sounds like taking the law into your hands a little too much. I might be breaking the law somewhat but I respect it and I’m happy to be a sheepdog, not a bloodhound. I don’t go looking for trouble.”

“That is unfortunate.” Shadowtaker replied, remaining stock still but somehow their stare became more penetrating. Scott tensed, ready for the fight.

“Police! Freeze!” The cop said as he turned the corner into the alley and drew his service pistol. Neither Scott nor the cop had time to react when Shadowtaker took a gun from somewhere and shot two rounds into the cop’s stomach.

“Asshole!” Scott yelled as he ran to kneel next to the cop. He tried to see what he could do. Thank God the library offered regular CPR and first aid classes. There was blood everywhere and it was all Scott could do to keep the cop from moving around. He brushed the cop’s gun away so nobody else got shot.

“I told you. It’s all about keeping the balance. One from one column,” He pointed to Trixshot “and one from the other.” He pointed to the cop. “The mission is of paramount importance. You will see that before the end comes. We will have order.”

“Shut up and call 911, you psycho.” Scott growled. The cop was beginning to go into shock so Scott ran to his bike and grabbed an emergency blanket and reached for one of the burner cell phones. He turned to go back to the cop and Shadowtaker was gone. Another psycho to look out for later. This one was creepy. Scott was back leaning over the cop when a woman rounded the corner and drew her own gun.

“Stay right where you are. You’re under arrest.”

Media Update 6/4/2015

June 4, 2015

Ninja Sex Party


I kind of hesitated to talk about this here because I try to keep this blog mostly clear of things that are NSFW. This is why I will probably never promote Steel Panther on this blog (wink). The thing is, NSP has lately burned itself into my brain and I’ve been playing the above video plenty of times this last week. The group is comprised of Ninja Brian and Danny Sexbang who are two internet musicians. The energy of Brian’s music combines really well with Danny’s infectious joy on the mic. This is probably the happiest music I’ve ever heard. Don’t worry about the NSFW stuff (unless your uncomfortable about sexy stuff which is totally cool)


Dead Like Me


I watched the entirety of Dead Like Me while I lived in New Jersey during a time where I was suffering major depression on and off. This show definitely resonated with me and it definitely lifted me from some dark days. I am not going to lie, this is a dark show but there’s a lot of comedy as well. It’s mostly about the personal journey of a young woman who dies and is tasked with taking the souls of the living just before their body dies so they can be escorted to the afterlife. It’s also about how we handle grief and how we learn to be ourselves as the ground shifts beneath our feet. It also has Mandy Patinkin in it.


Cinema Sins


This is actually a series that I really like but it also makes me nervous. See, Cinema Sins is a series of Youtube shorts that takes the piss out of movies. It goes moment by moment through a movie and points out plotholes, weird bits and annoying moments. Part of the joke is that they legitimately point out crappy parts of movies. The other part of the joke is they go beyond that and nitpick too much. All of this is hilarious until they make fun of movies I really love which is of course half the point of their videos.


Garfunkel and Oates


I just watched the first episode of this show on Netflix and it’s good. I first became acquainted with the Garfunkel and Oates because of Scrubs which was a favorite show of mine. Kate Miccuci was a reocurring guest star in the later seasons and was known as The Gooch. She played ukelele and sang which is what she does with her comedy music partner Riki Lindhome. The show (which is a sitcom sort of) follows the unique style of their music in that it is upbeat, awkward and funny all at once. It definitely caught me off guard with how good it was.

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