Monday, August 05, 2013

M: 40 days of dating

Hello, blog.  You still here? :)

So Jenn and I got sidetracked from blogging for the past couple of months.  She's only planning a wedding or something and moved from MD to VA.  I moved across the pond to England or something boring like that, and somehow fell off the face of the blogging earth in the process. That being the case, I'm sure we have a negative number of readers now, since that means that even we aren't checking our own blog to read new posts.  And the handful of readers who may have done so while we were regularly updating (thank you for having existed as readers at one point) should have given up on us eons ago.

In any case, I found something I wanted to blog about! A while back I had introduced the Lizzie Bennett Diaries on this blog, which lead to Jenn reading and getting super caught up on it (while I never finished going through it and am now woefully behind). More recently I came across another web series thing (via Facebook), which is based on real life and so very engrossing.  So much so that I'm already caught up! 

It's two graphic designers in NYC who were already good friends and who decide to try this experiment of dating each other for 40 days and documenting the experience.  The girl is a serial relationshipper, while the guy is a serial dater.  She falls too fast; he never falls. They started the journey in March, and started sharing the story earlier this summer.  The story unfolds a day at a time (with the final reveal/Day 40 coming later this month on August 16), and is shared via an interview-style system with fun graphics (given their professions, makes sense) interspersed.  They are currently on Day 27 and I seriously want to know -- do they make it beyond Day 40 or not?!?!?  Are they in a true relationship or will they go back to a friendship or less?! 

C'mon, get hooked with me! :)

Friday, May 03, 2013

J: Week 16 (Randomness)

I know, I know, this week's post is very late. The truth is that I just haven't really known what to blog about. Five years ago I never thought I'd be saying this, but I honestly just don't watch that much TV anymore. And I don't have as much time to read as I'd like, few movies interest me, and music always has and always will kind of overwhelm me. But I wouldn't say that I've totally cut myself off from pop culture - here's just a random selection of things that I've been enjoying or that I'm looking forward to.
  • The Veronica Mars movie - Obviously, I contributed to the kickstarter!
  • Before Midnight - Third in the series after Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, which are some of my favorite movies of all time. SO excited for this.
  • Tegan and Sara's album Heartthrob and Frightened Rabbit's album Pedestrian Verse.
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen. Almost finished with this book. It seems I've been on a non-fiction kick lately...
  • Next up on my audiobook queue: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
  • Top of the Lake - I started watching this Sundance Channel series and thought it was really interesting but fell behind. Would like to finish it up before I move since I'm not planning on having cable TV at my new place.
  • Mr. Selfridge  - Same story, started watching this latest Masterpiece Classic series but fell behind. At first I was like, Jeremy Piven in a period piece? But he's actually really quite good.
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour - Apparently I like listening to people talking about things I don't watch or read or listen to.
  • This American Life - Still try to catch this every week. Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde was a really interesting recent one.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

M: Week 15 (No More Original Movies)

There seems to be quite a dearth of original movies being made and produced for theaters these days.  So many movies coming out this year appear to be either sequels or more. (Even the few original movies I've watched in the past year seem to have been based on novels or were remakes...) When looking at movie lists for upcoming movies, I'm either thinking, "Wait, they're making another movie in THAT series?" or "Wait, HOW many of those movies exist already?"  Of course, I'll admit there are also times when I'm excited to see the next movie.

Here are great examples:
Iron Man 3 (There is no end to these Avenger-related movies, huh?)
Star Trek into Darkness
Fast and Furious 6 (Six?!)
The Hangover: Part III (Part II was so bad I couldn't finish it... how did a Part III even get funded and made?)
Man of Steel (Figure anything in the Superman, Spider-Man series counts in this category. They're definitely not "original" material for movies at this point.)
Monsters University (12 years later... a prequel.)
Despicable Me 2 (I have to admit I'm a bit excited about this one. It was a surprise to me how much I enjoyed the original.)
Grown Ups 2
Red 2 (Enjoyed the original, but surprised that they even bothered with this.  Then again, this falls into the Expendables category and that series is working on its third, right?)
The Wolverine
The Smurfs 2 (really?)
300: Rise of an Empire
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Given how long it took for this to come out, I had figured they weren't going to bother since the first one didn't do that well.  Silly me.)
Kick-Ass 2
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Sin City: A Dame to Kill for
Paranormal Activity 5 (I vaguely know of 2... I didn't realize 4 already existed.)
Anchorman 2 (9 years later... not as bad as Monsters, Inc.)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Can't wait! Also the Divergence book series will be made into a movie series to capitalize off of The Hunger Games market.)
The Hobbit 2 (This is the prime example of trying to milk a franchise for everything it's worth. NOT necessary. Sigh.)

That's only a list of movies coming out the rest of this year!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

J: Week 14 (Life of Pi)

I apologize for being late this week! I was out of town for the weekend and am still catching up. But -- taking a page out of Mira's book -- I did watch a movie on the plane! I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were showing Life of Pi already.

Confession: I tried to read the book, several times actually, but could never get through it. I think it had something to do with the writing style, but it just didn't retain my interest, even though conceptually I thought the story would have appealed to me So initially I wasn't too excited about the movie version, even though Ang Lee was directing it and he seemed like a pretty perfect choice. But after some good buzz and awards season success, my interest was piqued again. And I have to say that I really enjoyed it.

The movie was really visually gorgeous. It's left somewhat ambiguous whether the events of the story actually happened or if they were imagined by the main character, Pi, but there are definitely a number of fantastical elements that the movie takes full advantage of. I thought the night scenes especially were pretty breathtaking. And this was on the tiny airplane screens!

Suraj Sharma has a heavy load on his shoulders as the teenaged Pi - he's the only human onscreen for the bulk of the film - and is immediately likable. The equally likable Irfan Khan is the older Pi (I associate him first with The Namesake, in which his wife was played by the same actress who plays Pi's mother here) and there are a sprinkling of other actors who all acquit themselves well. And then of course, there's the tiger (named Richard Parker of all things), who is definitely a character on his own and not just a plot device.


Sunday, April 07, 2013

M: Week 13 (Much Ado About Nothing)

One of my favorite Shakespearean plays is "Much Ado About Nothing," and one of my favorite movies is also Much Ado About Nothing (starring Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Kate Beckinsale, the doctor from House MD, and lots of other familiar/famous faces). The play in itself is really fun with great characters and a perfectly messed up plotline that gets resolved rather perfectly.  The movie version took all of that and translated it perfectly to the screen (no surprise since Kenneth Branagh was involved). There's really very little that could be done to make what's already been perfected even better... Still, I'm really excited to share two upcoming projects related to "Much Ado About Nothing" that I've recently learned about!

Apparently Joss Whedon and friends have created a modern day interpretation of "Much Ado About Nothing," shot in black and white and filmed over 12 days. There will be many familiar faces, such as Agent Coulson from The Avengers, and actors from Firefly, Angel, and Buffy. I'm so glad to hear that it takes its own interpretation and doesn't try to remake something that's already been perfected. And truthfully, if there's anyone who is pretty reliable about taking something that has a devoted fan base (okay, so maybe "Much Ado" may have a devoted fan base of one -- me) and redoing it to different level of greatness, well I think Joss Whedon can do it. For more details:

Seriously, there's something going on here. I love me some musicals and I love me some "Much Ado," so whoever decided the two must be combined was obviously doing it for me.  Maybe there's something in the water/air, but here's yet another famous-name-attached project related to "Much Ado" -- a musical scored by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong!  Hopefully this project takes off and makes it onto a larger production platform (currently only set to be performed at the Yale Repertory Theater in 2014) so I can see it.  But I find it fascinating that this is happening at all. For more details:

Maybe my personal love for "Much Ado" isn't so unique and there is quite a huge fan-base, who knows.  But regardless, I'm excited and hope I get a chance to watch both and add them to my "Much Ado" collection.  If not, I've still got the play and the Kenneth Branagh movie version.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

J: Week 12 (Into the Wild)

I borrowed this book, Into the Wild, from my brother years ago. I knew the basic story and found it fascinating -- especially since I had read one of Jon Krakauer's other books (Into Thin Air) and really liked it -- but for some reason I didn't get around to it until just recently.

I probably became re-interested in it because last September I somehow found myself on a 6-day backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon and started to really understand why people love getting away from civilization and just enjoying the outdoors. Growing up in the city/suburbs, I had never even been camping before last year! But I mean, this was a guided trip - we went with a company that provided all of our food and gear and even cooked every meal for us - and it was seriously tough. I don't think I'd want to do something that intense again. So the thought of just going out alone into the wilderness for weeks and months at a time with no one really knowing where you were? That I couldn't fathom.

Krakauer does a great job building the story. He starts with Chris McCandless' fate and then goes back to trace his journey and try to piece together his complex personality. He explains that a lot of people labeled McCandless as simply foolish and unprepared but I was actually pretty impressed by how long he did sustain his wandering lifestyle. I think in the end it was really his idealism that got him in trouble. It's ultimately a sad story but still an incredible one.

Right after I finished the book I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie version was free for streaming from Amazon Prime. Emile Hirsch plays Chris McCandless and I thought he was pretty fantastic. Reading about what he went through physically is one thing but seeing it made it even more powerful. I remember one of the notable things about the movie was that Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam contributed original songs to the soundtrack and I thought his sound was actually extremely fitting.

I highly recommend both the book and the movie!

Monday, March 25, 2013

M: Week 11 (Dancing with the Stars)

So I have only watched one season of Dancing with the Stars -- the year Kristi Yamaguchi won, and she's the reason I watched that season.  As a whole, I just couldn't get into the show because the dancing is pretty atrocious compared to my favorite dancing show, So You Think You Can Dance.  That's obviously to be expected since one half of each dancing pair is not an actual dancer, but still, if I'm going to spend 2 hours watching a bunch of people dancing, I'd prefer it to be really good dancing.  Without any celebrities that I really cared about watching, I for the most part have ignored all but one of the past 15 seasons (I can't believe this show is on season 16!), but this season I'm watching again!

Who am I watching for?  Baltimore Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones!  He's been a blast to watch on the field this season; both for his explosive touchdown runs and his hilarious touchdown dances.  So when he was asked in interviews if he'd be interested in doing Dancing with the Stars and he answered "Do polar bears poo on ice?," it was exciting to learn that he was soon afterward offered a spot on the new season. He's a goofy guy and loves to ham it up for the camera, so as long as he's on the show -- I'm in! I'm watching this season!

A few more reasons I'll watch:

  • Two former Olympians that I like: Dorothy Hamill and Aly Raisman. 
  • Dancing genre expansion: Contemporary and Jazz (I'm not sure how I feel about those additions actually, since it seems like it'd be pretty tough without quality technical training, but surprisingly the few contemporary numbers on the first night were actually okay!)
  • A So You Think You Can Dance alumna: Lindsay Arnold (not actually my favorite from the show, but it's still great to see these additional opportunities open up for former SYTYCDers!)

Limitations to why I don't love the show:

  • The judges: I feel like I can only handle so much of Len and Bruno... 
  • I don't really understand the elimination process: judge scoring and audience votes? How do the two really factor into everything? I don't actually care enough to research either, but I do know that I haven't figured it out from the episodes I've watched.
  • The loss of So You Think You Can Dance alumna Chelsea Hightower (she is one of my favorite SYTYCDers)
  • The Bachelor Sean Lowe being on the show. Seriously, doesn't the guy want a break from reality TV? Seriously?!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

J: Week 10 (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries)

Mira tipped me off on this web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries late last summer. It's a modern day adaptation of Pride & Prejudice told through video blogs and also other social media like twitter and tumblr and such. I'd been slowly working through the series from the beginning until yesterday -- when things got really REALLY good and I spent over 2 hours getting up to date! The story is not over yet, so now sadly I have to wait for new episodes biweekly!

Anyway, we all know how Pride & Prejudice goes and there have been countless adaptations over the years but somehow this retelling has still managed to be incredibly fresh & creative while also very faithful to the original story. The choices they've made bringing the characters and plot points into the modern era have just been so smart and often really funny.

For example, they decided to only have three Bennet sisters - Jane, Lizzie, and Lydia. Mary is a cousin instead - in the novel she's "plain," uninterested in parties and dancing and mostly just reads books, so in this world, of course she's an emo girl! And Kitty - well, she doesn't really do much except hang around Lydia so here...she's just an actual cat, ha! Mr. Collins is still a silly caricature but he's not going around proposing marriage -- he's offering jobs at his new media company! Lizzie feels that working for him would be compromising her integrity but her best friend Charlotte? She's not so idealistic and takes the job! It's amazing how well their "marriage of convenience" from the novel translates to a business relationship. Pemberley? Darcy's company! Lizzie falls in love with their swanky headquarters!

The main video blogs are Lizzie's, but they've also had Lydia, Maria (Charlotte's sister), and Gigi (Darcy's sister Georgiana) have their own videos. Lydia's especially have been really awesome - they've helped to really flesh out her character beyond just being a silly party girl. In the novel, Lydia annoyed me from the beginning - but here she's super likable and relatable. The way they translated the Lydia/Wickham plotline was what totally sucked me in yesterday - it floored me with how good it was!

Anyway, so I guess by this point you're wondering - what about Lizzie and Darcy?? Well, they definitely took their sweet time getting Darcy on camera. He didn't appear until episode 60, which is the  "first proposal" scene. Of course, he doesn't actually propose marriage, but he does confess his feelings.  I have to say, at first, I wasn't so sure about the actor they cast (he's no Colin Firth). But their chemistry immediately felt very authentic. And of course, once they introduce Gigi, he starts to soften up. I have to admit, usually P&P for me is all about Lizzie/Darcy, but I love that here it's not so front-and-center and we've gotten to spend more time with the other characters. Still, we are getting to the part of the story where Lizzie and Darcy finally get together, and I. Can't. Wait!!

Speaking of casting, overall it's been pretty darn amazing. They started with just the three sisters and Charlotte, but they've gradually brought in Bing (Bing Lee, ha - Asian!), Caroline, Wickham, Fitz (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Georgiana...all of whom have really grown into their roles. I liked how Caroline initially actually seems pretty cool -- it's more understandable how Jane initially considered her a friend.

So if you're at all a fan of Pride & Prejudice, you are going to LOVE this series. Be warned though, it can suck up hours of your time! Be sure to follow the story from here so you don't miss any of the side videos, Q&As, or twitter conversations. SO GOOD!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

M: Week 9 (the bachelor)

So of course I'm late on my biweekly post... again! I was originally going to post on a book I read recently -- an old-fashioned, non-electronic, real book (from the library) -- that Jenn had posted about previously, but since I'm a day late anyway, figured I'll write about entertainment from tonight. Plus, I'm not sure I'm ready to write my thoughts about a twisty, hateful, scary relationship.  I think I'd rather write about happy, potentially superficial and shortlasting, reality TV relationships instead!

I've mentioned previously that I do not tend to watch The Bachelor, simply because of the large ratio of crazy girls to normal people. However, since I do watch The Bachelorette, which is better in the crazy to normal ratio department, I end up staying moderately curious about what is happening to the former Bachelorette reject. This season I balanced out the inaneness of the crazies by reading blog recaps of the early episodes and once the show had dwindled down to the final 3 (meaning no more group dates or girls hanging out in a room while the Bachelor is dating other members of the group), I decided I could start watching again.  

I was quite perplexed by the final 3: AshLee, who is super condescending (to my ears at least) and under a thick layer of sweetness seems to be kinda mean (or maybe I just don't get the southern girl thing?); Lindsay, who was the super drunk girl who showed up in a wedding dress and seemed nice enough but not particularly interesting; and Catherine, who says everything in a nasal almost sarcastic way, but was really smart and quirky, and I thought brought out a true maturity and silliness in Sean. Can you tell who my frontrunner was? :) In any case, I got my wish and Catherine got the happily ever after.  I also got my wish and the next Bachelorette is Des (one of the frontrunners kicked off after the hometown dates). My Dancing with the Stars "surprise contestant" prediction is Lindsay, the professional substitute teacher, not Sean. I think that Dancing with the Stars could be her consolation prize for not getting the guy or The Bachelorette

Happy people, happy couples. Hopefully, at least. (Ashley and J.P. seem at least stable, married, and happy. Emily and Jef never made it anywhere near the alter. Gross Ben and Courtney were just gross and are not worth thinking about.) I was quite concerned with the fact that Sean didn't know until the day before the proposal who he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. I kept thinking about his mother's advice -- if you're not sure, don't propose! Seriously, if you can't get the "other girl" out of your head, are you really ready to propose? And if you're the girl, do you really want to accept that proposal? I'd like to think I'd want to wait until I knew I was the ONLY girl in his head. Even crazier now is that they're ready to get married ASAP and want to do so on TV. Anyway, they don't seem like emotionally unstable people and seem pretty great together, so here's to hoping that they work out...

Speaking of reality TV couples that work out -- Samantha Woods and Mike Spiro from Love in the Wild are ENGAGED! Adorable. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

J: Week 8 (The Amazing Race)

I actually came to The Amazing Race really late - I didn't start until season 10 after I got out of college. But I was hooked immediately and I've watched every season since then. Season 22 just started a few weeks ago but I'm a little behind so I don't really have too much to say about the current season yet except that I totally want to go skydiving in Bora Bora (I've done in New Zealand, so my next time has to be even more epic). Instead, here are my reasons for why I've stuck with this show all these years!

- Travel envy. Definitely my #1 reason. There are probably a handful of places that the show has visited that I'm not interested in but man, there are a lot of places in this world that I want to visit.
- Consistency. Sure, they've added some things over the years like the U-Turn and the Express Pass and such, but generally the show has remained pretty much the same. This can also be taken for predictability though...which is a valid point but not bad enough yet to make me stop watching.
- Creative tasks. Yes, there are lot of really stupid tasks. But they're still coming up with new and different things for the racers to do. Good mix of funny/physical/mental tasks too. I loved the synchronized swimming last season!
- Limited "reality" drama. This varies season to season - there are generally a few teams that are either really annoying or really mean, and then there are alliances and animosity between teams, but really most of the drama comes from the tasks themselves.
- All-star seasons. Always love seeing likable teams come back for a second chance. Really hoping that Jaymes & James from last season come back for the next all star season!
- Phil Keoghan. He actually doesn't do that much? But I just like him...

Next time I promise to cover a non-TV topic!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

M: Week 7 (Beautiful Creatures)

I had only recently started noticing movie posters and previews for the movie Beautiful Creatures and felt oddly compelled by the advertisement for the movie.  However, the ads were not compelling enough for me to actually pay to watch the movie.  Instead I was not-so-secretly hoping that in the coming months, it would be one of the free movies I'd get to watch on an international plane flight; after all that is how I watch the majority of my movies these days. In any case, before that, since this movie is based on a teen lit series, obviously I needed to read the books first. Fortunately for me, my husband happened to catch the Kindle Deal of the Day over Presidents' Day weekend for the Beautiful Creatures series ($2.99 for each) and I snapped up the deal. I'm currently halfway through book two in the series and I've gotta say, I'm hooked!  Here are the reasons why I think this is one of the better teen fantasy series:
1. A 'ship to root for: I think that Ethan and Lena are just such a great couple.  But at the same time, when they're not together, I feel like there's something very real about the emotions taking them down that path and so it's okay. As a result, I'm not totally against other developing relationships either. There's a lot of gray area with the 'ships, but it's acceptable for a strong shipper like me.
2. Ethan > Bella: Bella was simply not that likable in the book, and only marginally more likable (for me) in the movie. Ethan is an extremely likable protagonist, which is helpful when the book is written primarily from his perspective!
3. A little less predictable: I'm in Book 2 (Beautiful Darkness) and I'm still not quite sure where it's going!
4. Southern culture: The mix of modern day "Southern" culture intermingled with post-Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) society is pretty interesting and unique to this series. (Well, for a teen lit series, that is.)
5. It's well written. I'm not usually one to notice how well or poorly written a book is because I'm so engrossed in just the story.  But while reading this series, I've actually been impressed with how the story unfolds and the quality of the writing.
6. Bromance: Ethan's friendship with Link is a little bit more a side story but constant in Book 1 and comes into play much more in Book 2, but it's a great friendship.
7. Flashbacks: The book interweaves in the past really well with the flashbacks that the characters are pulled into throughout the stories.  The flashbacks show a glimpse of the town of Gatlin during the Civil War, but also clues as to what's coming in the rest of the book/series.  I really like how it plays into the storytelling and development of the characters, present and past.

Hopefully my enthusiasm for the series doesn't wane as I read the rest of the books. I really hope I like how this turns out and that the movie doesn't suck.

Monday, February 18, 2013

J: Week 6 (How I Took a Really Long Time to Meet Your Mother)

For various reasons, my TV-watching schedule has gotten increasingly spare over the past couple of years. I no longer have a problem dropping shows as soon as I lose interest -- even those that I was at one time completely engrossed in (I'm sad to say that I think I've pretty much given up on The Vampire Diaries) -- but for some reason I have not yet given up on How I Met Your Mother.

This topic has been pretty much been beaten to death, but it's pretty ridiculous how long they have been stretching this show out. Back in 2010, Mira wrote this post complaining that it had been five years without meeting the mother. Little did we know that it was actually going to take NINE years!

Thankfully, next season has been confirmed to be the last. But honestly, I'm almost setting myself up for disappointment. With so long of a buildup, there's going to be really a lot of pressure to cast the right actress with the right chemistry. I'm assuming that the writers already have to know this character, but they're going to have to be careful translating her to the screen. But part of me is still hoping that they'll reveal the mother at the end of this season and take next season to develop their relationship. I mean, Ted Mosby is definitely not the most interesting character on the show, but this is the point of the series! We've gotten to see so much of the Marshall/Lily and Robin/Barney relationships that I feel like even just one season of Ted and the Mother would be kind of unfair.

Last week's episode did tell the story of the last woman Ted dated before the Mother though, so there's hope? Maybe?

Anyway, the real question is, why have I stuck with this so long? Part of it is definitely that it's a half hour sitcom and a pretty small time commitment. I guess the other is that I do still like these characters. It's pretty impressive that the show has kept the core five this whole time (especially Neil Patrick Harris whose career has just blown up over the course of the series) and I have definitely enjoyed seeing Lily and Marshall go from dating to engaged to married to parents. That at least feels realistic. Barney will probably never not be funny, and actually I feel like Robin is the least annoying now that she and Barney are basically settled. The innovative storytelling that used to be a trademark of the show isn't so much there anymore, and there are a lot of episodes that are just plain stupid, but the tone of the show and characters have been pretty much been consistent over the years. There are some people who have all along claimed that they don't care about meeting the Mother and just enjoy the show for what it is so I guess I do kind of understand what they're saying.

But really, as Mira said like 3 years ago, C'MON, I WANT TO MEET THE FRIGGIN' MOTHER!

Monday, February 11, 2013

M: Week 5 (TV I'm Reading)

So in effort to trim down my TV schedule, there were quite a few shows I've dropped in the last year.  Some were dropped because I simply didn't like them enough (The Mindy Project, The New Girl, Beauty and the Beast), others because I didn't like the direction they were going in (Parenthood, Switched at Birth), and others because I simply fell behind and couldn't catch up (The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy).  In any case, I don't care much what's happened on the shows in the first category, but I can't quite let go of the shows in the latter two categories.  I may not watch, but I was decently invested in the show and I cared about the storylines and characters! As a result, I've discovered that a less time intensive, less stressful, and less DVR demanding way of doing so is to follow the detailed recaps of the shows available online.  Here are a few shows I've been reading up on, and what I think about what's going on!

Private Practice
A few weeks ago, I happened to end up watch TV live (meaning while it was airing for the first time) and accidentally caught the last 40 minutes of the series finale of Private Practice.  Apparently I missed the memo about this season being its final season, so imagine my surprise when all of a sudden people were getting married left and right and then the show was just over! In any case, that started me on trying to close the gap between the last episode I had watched and the end of the show. In summary, the right couples ended up together: Charlotte & Cooper (+tons of kids! Apparently she gave birth to TRIPLETS.), Sam & Naomi (Sam & Addison just didn't work for me. At all.), and Addison & someone not involved in a messy love triangle. From dating her husband's best friend (Grey's Anatomy with McDreamy and McSteamy) to dating her best friend's ex-husband, Addison just found herself in icky relationships. So the fact that she ended up with a very attractive, very nice doctor was a relief. And the fact that Violet didn't have anymore relationship storylines to end the show was also a relief.

Grey's Anatomy
Seattle's Grace Hospital just had to deal with too many catastrophes for me to continue watching. From George being hit by a bus, to Izzy breaking laws to save her crazy love/lust at first sight fiancé who ends up dying anyway, to a mass shooter coming into the hospital and almost killing Derek/Meredith and Meredith losing their unborn baby, to last season -- the doctors being in a plane crash that ends up killing Lexie AND Mark Sloane (McSteamy) AND causes Arizona to lose her leg AND Derek to lose full functionality of his hand (only super important for a neurosurgeon, right?)... Yeah, it was getting to be too much.  But apparently there is some happiness to be found in this season -- MerDer are finally preggerz again and they have their lovely adopted daughter and I believe they are finally in a happy place. Christina and Owen have defined their undying love for each other and are divorcing each other because they love each other so much, not because Christina isn't good at being married (complicated, of course). And Alex finally gets some non-douchey storylines, I think. Oh and there are a bunch of characters I do not know because they killed off a bunch of characters that I do know. BTW, has anyone else pointed out the fact that this show is set in Seattle with a main character named Grey? (50 Shades of Grey)

The Good Wife
Probably of all the shows I lost, this is the one I regret the most. With Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, reading the show recaps made me feel somewhat relieved not to be watching along with their soapy emotional rollercoaster. With The Good Wife, I feel like I'm really missing out! In any case, I've missed TONS in the show and I've caught up by reading about the show online but I can't even begin to summarize all that I've missed.  Basically, tons of character depth added to EVERY character on the show, tons of highlighting the beauty of the many different relationships and dynamics that exist on the show, and tons of unique spins on legal cases and politics. Alicia and Will had a fling and it ended but it was okay. Alicia and Peter are somewhat back together and somehow that's okay. Kalinda and Alicia are back to being buds and that's building great. Alicia made a frenemy out of a former ER costar. The kids are still annoying, but appropriately so for their age, so somehow on this show it's okay.

Here's a show for which I have not seen a single episode. However, I have listed to most of 2 episodes because my husband watches it. Basically, I started reading the recaps for all the episodes because I had so many questions for my husband while he was watching it and he gets annoyed at me when I start pestering him with questions about shows he watches that I don't watch. Plus, I was super curious why it was such a thing for so many people. My thoughts on the show? It's a really good show to read about, so I'm sure it's an even better show to watch. However, the ambiguities on whether Nicholas Brody is working for or against the U.S. government really confuses and annoys me. And either the genius or gullibility of Carrie Mathison is hard for me to process. Maybe if I watched the show and really experienced the depth of their characters storylines, I'd appreciate both better. Probably won't watch, though.

The Bachelor
I watch The Bachelorette but I have a lot of issues watching The Bachelor. Seriously, 20+ women all vying for ONE guy is a recipe for drama, crazies, and annoyingness.  Instead I read about the crazies and pat myself on the back for not sitting through 2 hours of torture each week. In truth, I probably wouldn't bother reading about it but this season's bachelor, Sean, seems like such a nice guy (since I watched last season of The Bachelorette). Plus, what makes the season all the more readable is that Sean's blogs about each week's show are equally entertaining and enlightening. It gives me hope that he recognizes the crazy of some of the women on the show in retrospect, though he doesn't seem to recognize it at all on the show.

Monday, February 04, 2013

M: Super Bowl Ads

Thanks to the DVR, I rarely watch commercials.  In fact, I get downright annoyed when I have to sit through them.  However, as a sports fan, the one time I do have to sit through commercials is during games because it kind of sucks to watch a game after it's already happened.  In any case, this Super Bowl was kind of a big deal for me -- my Baltimore Ravens not only made it, they won it!  Since I had to endure sitting through all of those commercials, I thought I'd talk about my favorites and least favorites.

1. Oreo Whisper Fight: I love that they were fighting like crazy in a library, all the while doing it no louder than a whisper. 
2. Tide Miracle Stain: Punch line -- "Go Ravens!" 'nuf said. 
3. Taco Bell Esta Noche: I was amused by the fact that they had literally translated Fun.'s "Tonight" into Spanish, shoving all the words into the original song. Plus the old people doing all the stupid, crazy late night shenanigans of young people all tied to Taco Bell. Well done.
Honorable Mention: Budweiser Clydesdale commercial, simply because it was so cute.  
Oh, and the commercials with Amy Poehler (Best Buy) and Tracy Morgan (uh, some sports drink thing?) were amusing. 

1. Samsung's Next Big Thing: Not only was that a really slow, drawn out commercial, but it's kinda ridiculous how much it must have cost -- at least $6M for the 1 minute long commercial + Lebron James + Paul Rudd + Seth Rogan, seriously?! It was not funny -- AT ALL. 
2. GoDaddy Awkward Make Out: The chubby guy with white guy afro who shows up as an extra in every teen TV show or movie making out with the hot chick?  That was just gross.
3. Axe Lifeguard: Um, this was just stupid. Guy beats up shark, saves some hot chick who ditches her hot lifeguard savior for an astronaut? And somehow this is about deodorant?

That was a stressful 4.5 hours of football (seriously, 4.5 hours!!! thanks to a 45 minute half-time show and a 34 minute power outage at the stadium), but... GO RAVENS! :)

Sunday, February 03, 2013

J: Week 5 (I'm running)

I'm actually writing this post a bit early because I'll be out of town this weekend running my first marathon! So in honor of the occasion, I thought I'd write about a few running related things!

The Spirit of the Marathon - My friend Erin and I watched this documentary on the recommendation of a friend who also recently ran his first marathon. It follows 6 runners (2 elite and 4 amateurs) as they prepared for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. It also gives some history of the marathon and has interviews with famous marathoners. I especially got a kick out of seeing Hal Higdon, the guy whose training plan I followed! Erin and I have been training just on our own so it was funny to see how all runners (well, the recreational ones anyway) do go through the same things that we did.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I read this last year and was pretty engrossed by it. It's about these incredible runners from the Tarahumara Indian tribe of Mexico and how various Americans (including the author) sought to learn their secrets. The author posits that humans are "born to run" -- but not with modern running shoes. His research and the example of the Tarahumaras are definitely convincing, but I'm still not so sure about the barefoot/minimal running trend. Plus, I really don't know what the deal is with these crazy ultramarathon people. (I know, some people would say that about a marathon too).

Bonus randomness: Bradley Cooper's character spends like half of Silver Linings Playbook running in a full sweatshirt and a garbage bag (apparently to sweat more). Jennifer Lawrence's character runs too, but in the cutest running outfits, hmph. I haven't decided how much running I'm going to be doing after the marathon but I now really want a cute running jacket...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

M: Week 4 (Les Misérables)

For the past 4 weeks, I've had songs from Les Misérables steadily running through my head and nonstop been  humming them under my breath. From “One Day More” to “Can You Hear the People Sing” to “On My Own” to “Red and Black,” it's constant and surprisingly, welcome. (One work day I had Rihanna's “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” stuck in my head. Now that was extremely unwelcome.)

I have seen Les Misérables on Broadway twice, watched the 25th Anniversary Concert in London three times (even own it on Blu-ray), and watched the latest movie in the theaters. Now, I've been tasked by my dear friend Amy to read the book as well.

Haha, this is reminiscent of 2012 weekly updates...
Watching... Les Misérables.
Listening... Les Misérables.
Reading... Les Misérables.

Anyway, I was really happy with the latest addition to the Les Misérables package – the movie. For the most part, I agree with most of the world on the reviews for the performances: Russell Crowe was a weak casting choice for Javert; Anne Hathaway was amazing as Fantine; Eddie Redmayne made me like Marius more than I've ever liked him anywhere; Hugh Jackman gave a phenomenal performance, but I wished he had a stronger singing voice; other key roles – the Thernadiers, Eponine, Cosette, Enjolras, Gavroche, revolutionists – were well cast and the actors gave satisfying, if not great, performances. The movie told a much more complete story than what I got from the musical. It filled in some gaps I didn't even realize I was missing while watching the musical; it also made me realize how much of the story I either forgot or missed, even though I've listened to all those songs so many times.

Overall, I think that the movie is something I'd love to own one day, simply because it tells the Les Misérables story so well. While the Blu-ray of the 25th Anniversary concert is satisfying because the vocal performances are done to perfection, the movie is satisfying in rounding out the amazing story behind the musical. (Oh, one vocal plus for the movie vs. the musical: Marius. Eddie Redmayne > Nick Jonas. But I really do wish they had used a more operatic Javert for the movie, ie. Norm Lewis.)

The reason why I love Les Misérables so much is the musical and the songs. The music makes me envious of the genius of the composer, Claude-Michel Schönberg. I love how certain musical rifts/themes follow specific characters throughout the production, and in certain numbers they all come together (ie. “One Day More” bringing in “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Master of the House”). It's masterful, beautiful, and makes me want to write a musical, as silly as it may sound for me to say so.

In any case, next up is reading Les Misérables, the book. I've heard from Amy that the book is a) an easy read, and b) fills in the story even more. Amy also mentions that some changes made in the movie were more in line with the book than the musical. I have no ambition to try to read it in Victor Hugo's original French, but I will definitely continue reading it in English.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

J: Week 3 (Midseason first impressions)

In my week 1 post, I mentioned that I wanted to check out The Carrie Diaries and Deception and I actually got around to them, so here are my mini-reviews:

The Carrie Diaries - I watched all of Sex and the City (and the first movie) but I can't say that I ever had the burning question - what was Carrie Bradshaw like as a teenager? The show is based on a book by Candace Bushnell, who also wrote the book the original series was based on, so I'm not questioning the legitimacy of its origins, but I guess I'm not sure what the logic behind making the show at all is. Are they counting on fans of the original SATC to be interested in a high school show? I feel like that was the same sort of logic behind the new 90210. Then again, that's still on the air, so what do I know?

But anyway, even though this show is from the same people as Gossip Girl and part of it is set in New York City, it actually read a bit younger because it seems to be trying to be more of a family show. The main cast includes Carrie, her father, and her younger sister, Dorrit (Charles Dickens reference??) as they are learning to cope with the recent death of Carrie and Dorrit's mother. Carrie has a circle of friends including a quiet Asian girl called "The Mouse" (I feel like I should be slightly irritated by this stereotype but she's played by Knives Chau! From Scott Pilgrim! ) and a couple, Maggie, who's cheating on Walt, who's still in the closet. Then there's the love interest, Sebastian, and some annoying "popular" girls.

As with all pilots, the episode was mainly setup. I found myself liking most of the characters, but it didn't necessarily grab me as something being worth watching weekly.

Deception - I guess NBC is trying to get in on the success of Revenge and Scandal? The premise sounded somewhat interesting to me - cop returns to the privileged world she grew up in to investigate the murder of her former best friend. But I couldn't even get through the first episode...I felt like it was just trying too hard with the flashbacks and everyone's dark secrets and ulterior motives. Meh. Even Victor Garber couldn't save it for me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

M: Week 2 (Why Golden Globes > Everything Else)

As I sit here watching the Golden Globes, I'm again reminded just how much I enjoy the Golden Globes. Back in the high school days, I was quite an award junkie and I bought into the whole “Golden Globes predicts Emmy and Oscar winners,” watching it simply as a prequel. Today, I think the Golden Globes is the only award show that I actually make an effort to watch every year, simply because it's the most entertaining and it best covers what I enjoy – TV *and* movies!

So here are some reasons why I think the Golden Globes > any other award show:
  • It doesn't live off of controversy (à la MTV awards shows), but doesn't take itself too seriously either.
  • It doesn't have 9-10 nominees for ONE category; I'm still really angry at the Oscars for changing the Best Picture nominees category. At least the Golden Globes split the categories.
  • TV *and* Movies! I watch and love both!
  • Because the Golden Globes separates Comedy/Musical from Drama in so many of the categories, you don't end up with only the typical award show-type of nominees. You get some movies/shows that are actually more mainstream.
  • No random musical numbers to fast forward through. (Okay, other people – my husband included – may like the musical numbers, but I can do without 'em.)
  • Specific to this year (and last) only, but... Tina Fey, Amy Poehler > James Franco, Anne Hathaway (sorry!)
Since I didn't post before the Golden Globes, what I loved about this year's show:
  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
  • Anne Hathaway winning for her AMAZING performance in Les Misérables
  • Kristin Wiig (who's name is pronounced way differently than I thought) and Will Ferrell on their rambling but amusing Best Female Supporting Actress Film nomination presentation.
  • Kristen Bell and her baby bump!
  • Jennifer Lawrence (or J-Law) thanking her brothers for being mean to her
  • Jennifer Garner finishing Ben Affleck's thank you speech for him. Adorable!! (He was talking so fast that I doubt the people he actually remembered to thank even heard what he said.)

Sunday, January 06, 2013

J: Week 1 (2013 Preview)

A few things I'm looking forward to in 2013:

Television - 
  1. Downton Abbey. Starts this week, yay! I'm semi-spoiled on what happens at the end of the season (I hate when casting decisions have to dictate story) but I'm excited anyway.
  2. Returning midseason shows: Community and Cougar Town.
  3. New midseason shows I have some interest in: The Carrie Diaries (CW), Cult (CW), Deception (NBC), Zero Hour (ABC), Top of the Lake (Sundance - I'm pretty sure I don't have this channel anymore so not sure how I'll check it out, but it's set and filmed in New Zealand!)
 Movies -
  1. The Great Gatsby. It's a little concerning that it was supposed to be released in time for this year's Oscar race but it's gotten pushed to next summer? Still looking forward to it nonetheless.
  2. Star Trek Into Darkness. I thought the first one was good though I wasn't like, obsessed with it. Trailer looks pretty darn great though.
  3. Ender's Game. I really really really hope it's good.

Friday, January 04, 2013

J: 2013 Resolutions

Um, so I was 0 for 3 on last year's resolutions. I think I'm going to ditch #2 (watch Breaking Bad - I still may, but not going to make it a resolution since I doubt I'll have the time to get through 5 seasons) but keep the other two. So here's an updated list. 
  1. Read Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, and Atlas Shrugged (repeated from 2012). I also just want to make more time to just sit down and read more in general. This year I've pecked away at books just pages at a time here and there which somehow isn't as satisfying.
  2. Finish watching Angel (repeated from 2012). I own all the DVDs, but even easier, it streams free with Amazon prime.
  3. I really liked Mira's TV resolution - watch only the essentials - so I'm going to copy it. I've always been kind of a "completist" who wants to watch all series from the beginning and stick with them but I've increasingly just found this to be a drag. If I don't want to watch something, I don't want to watch it. If I find myself wanting to catch up with it later on (like I did with Parenthood recently), I can. I shouldn't feel stressed out because I'm behind on a TV show!
  4. Ever since I cancelled Netflix, I've become even worse at watching old releases. I compiled a list of  movies I missed in 2011 (I did watch 6 of them), so I updated my post for 2012 with a similar list. I don't really have a plan for tackling this except just try harder?
  5. Figure out what to do about my music problem. I used to be so good at this - I'd listen to Internet radio at work and discover new music, download and put stuff I liked on my iPod, and listened to it in the car. Now I can't stream music at work anymore, my iPod broke, and I actually listen to the radio (and not even music, mostly NPR) in the car. I'm just not happy with this situation...

Thursday, January 03, 2013

M: Concert Hopes for 2013

I'm not a major concertgoer, but I like to go to concerts when the right opportunities are present.  As much as possible, I strive to see artists that I like perform live at least once. Afterward I can determine whether the artist falls onto my a) must see every single time I can, b) not bad and worth seeing if they're touring with someone else I want to see, c) don't bother seeing them again, or d) stay away from any concert they are associated with list.

I think only one artist is on my A list -- Ingrid Michaelson.  But I think any a capella group I've ever liked would also fall onto that list as well.  Most groups are on B or C, depending on how much I like their subsequent albums.  On my D list -- well only Taking Back Sunday comes to mind.  I have a strong suspicion that Taylor Swift would also be on the list given that any live TV performance I've ever heard her sing on has been beyond disappointing.  However, given the fact that her concerts sell out everywhere in 5 minutes flat and in big venues and by repeat concertgoers, I am a teeeeny tiny bit curious.  Not enough to actually shell out the money and go, though.

In 2012, I picked up a whole slew of bands I like, most of them new bands. So I'm hoping to catch them in concert sometime soon... My fingers are crossed that I can make it to some of them in 2013!

Really want to see:
- The Lumineers: Performing in DC at DAR Constitution Hall on January 30 (tickets on sale tomorrow morning -- fingers crossed!) or England in late February (all sold out).
- Of Monsters and Men: They were here in November but I was traveling in South Korea. They are in England in late February or early March (all sold out). Or Paris in June. Or maybe I can catch them in their native Iceland one day. I do want to go to Iceland...
- Mumford & Sons: Saw them at Merriweather in Summer 2011.  Would like to see them again, but not enough to go to the Patriot Center on 13 or 14 February. Since they're an English band, perhaps I can catch them in the UK at some point...
- Imagine Dragons: Their February concert at the The Fillmore in Silver Spring is already sold out and prices are astronomically marked up on StubHub.  They are in England on 2 or 9 April, so... maybe?
- Pentatonix: At The Fillmore in Silver Spring on February 18. What I mentioned above about a capella groups on my A list? Yeah, they're included!  And we're going. :)

Less so: 
- Walk the Moon
- Grouplove

Note: I am not really traveling internationally to follow bands around.  My husband and I are planning to move to England sometime this Spring. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

M: 2013 Resolutions

Not that I am particularly good at following through on my resolutions, but at least achieving a small portion of some of the resolutions is better than nothing, right?

1. TV - Watch only the essentials.  I've already started doing that this past Fall, but I need to work on not watching shows because I've committed to watching them and instead watch shows because they're just that good.
2. Movies - I'm proud of what I achieved in 2012 and want to keep it up.  Aim to watch at least one new release movie per month.
3. Books - Read books worth blogging about. Then actually blog about them. Aim to blog about at least one book every quarter.
4. Music - Blog about live music. I do go to at least a handful of concerts a year, it's a shame I'm too lazy to blog about any of them.

Thursdays 2013: The Plan

We really want to keep this blog alive, even if it's only for ourselves (which it is) but we found that we were getting worse and worse (especially Mira) at keeping the weekly Thursday updates going in 2012.  Instead, we have decided that we will take turns with a blog post once a week this coming year, meaning we each post every other week, and we will be moving the Thursday posts to Sunday (easier to remember, hopefully)! We're going to keep the topics for this year's posts fairly open-ended and on occasion may put in requests to each other for upcoming posts.  Hopefully this will help us to continue to blog, because it's pretty amazing that we've kept this site going this long!!!  

Happy 2013 everyone! Got any New Year's resolutions?

M to J: What are you looking forward to in 2013?