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!