Monday, January 7, 2013

Stuff I Liked in 2012

I’ve been feeling a little down, lately.


I could talk about what’s going on, but to summarize it all life has been busy lately, the holidays have sapped some of my emotional energy, and I’m having some other issues I don’t feel entirely comfortable dealing with in the blog format.


Subsequently, I’ve barely written anything over the last few months.  I’ve managed to power through some editing to get my work ready for Red Iris Books, but otherwise, creating actual new words has eluded me.


A lot of times, diving into other people’s stories through the world of TV, movies, and/or books can help me to recharge.  For that matter, as I’ve constantly babbled about, the Blood Calling books were written mostly based on the frisson that came from listening to Cobra Starship CDs.


But lately, I haven’t found a whole lot to love.  And with the new year suddenly popping up, I found myself looking back over the year and having to work incredibly hard to remember if there was anything I had just flat-out loved this last year, with no qualifications.


And for like a week, I couldn’t think of anything.


And I do mean anything.  My mind was a complete blank.  I even started writing a blog post about the TV I’ve been watching, except that turned into another rant about how Glee still can’t seem to get it together, and how I think the New York storylines are yet another excuse to talk about how Rachel is so great, and how the cast who graduated should really just go ahead and look for work on other TV shows now, because it’s time.


There was a whole thing about how Revolution just keeps failing to get great, keeps giving us just-okay episodes that end with amazing twists… so I keep coming back, even though I’m not in love with it. 


I tried to write a review of The Dresden Files: Cold Days, talking about how it was okay, but Jim Butcher keeps taking more time to write longer books that aren’t as good as the previous entries in the series, and how that tires me and disappoints me.


And I finally managed to finish This Book is Full of Spiders, the sequel to John Dies at the End.  That took me eight weeks, and I only managed it because it was overdue at the library and I wanted to minimize the fine.


You have to understand, I didn’t/don’t really hate any of the things I’m whining about here.  If I were in a better mood, I probably would have enjoyed them a bit more than I did.


Or maybe not.


And really, that’s the issue right there.  I’m looking for a serious happy, and I’m not getting one.


So I went back again and tried to remember what brought me joy. 


So here’s that list:






At this point, very few shows I watch are a must-see as soon as I have them in my hands, but this is one of them.  If there’s an Emmy for most improved show EVER, the folks behind this show deserve it.  Epic drama, freaky action, and lots and lots and lots of fun surprises.  I’m just sad this next season will be the last.


Game of Thrones:


Y’know, this one comes up against its budget every once in a while, and it’s got a huge one.  Of course, they’re shooting 10 hour movies for half the price of a 3 hour Lord of the Rings flick, ten years down the road, so that’s understandable.


But every week that hour goes by in a blink.  My wife’s most frequent exclamation at the end of an episode is, “What do you mean, that’s it?”


I will say that George RR Martin needs to get a move on and get the novels done.  That needs to happen, like, right now. 


But otherwise, I take a lot of joy out of this one.


Warehouse 13


Man, I remember when this one as just a pleasant diversion.  Now it’s a must-watch-NOW, and every week delivers.


I suspect that time will eventually erode Warehouse, and I can’t see myself ever going back to it once it’s over, as I probably will with, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But man, what a pleasure, and I’m dying to see how they’re going to bring it back and wrap up the season.


Parks and Recreation:


The thing of it is, this show is on Thursday, and I just don’t have the time to watch it.  So my wife and I shove it off to the summer, and then DEVOUR it in June.  Which is why I forget about it.


And yet, for those two weeks we’re catching up, I laugh so very much.  Absolute gem of a show. 




This one I remembered because they now release the half seasons around my birthday, and then around Christmas.  So I buy them, and we save them for those special occasions… and then we BURN through them.


I’ve said before that the show keeps getting more soapy, but I honestly don’t care.  The show is soapy, yes but it’s soapy in a way that involves research, and hard answers to real questions (at least most of the time).


And unlike Glee, when a cast member leaves they generally stay gone.


Being Human (UK)


I had heard that the newest season (four) was pretty rough, especially with the loss of three major cast members.  And when my wife and I finally saw the first episode, my fears were confirmed.  Literally months went by while we watched other things.


But when we went back to it, the show smoothed itself out.  Ultimately, I think the problem was that the show had to almost completely reboot itself, while feeding off the end of the third season, and it couldn’t do it without a massive amount of storytelling.


Here in the US, where they’d get 13 or 22 episodes, they could have spread it out and made it work. But with only eight episodes to use, I think the job just got too big, and they figured they’d shove all the awkward into the first episode in order to make the other ones more polished.


Or maybe I’m wrong.  Either way, that’s how it worked.  And once it got going, it was just fine, had a killer (literally) final rug pull, and I’ve found that I really adore the new cast members.  Here’s hoping the next season is as good…






Ben Folds Five


Ben Folds put out a retrospective last year, and his band tossed a new album at us this year.  The retrospective mostly reminded me how much I’ve always liked Ben.  I think the problem is that if you don’t hear something for a long time you forget how good it is.  As it was, I ran across a half-dozen songs I already owned and had forgotten how much I loved.


And the new disc reminded me of something else entirely: Ben Folds Five was a real band, with its own sound, one that Ben himself never quite replicated.  So if the songs never quite crested the heights of the early records, there was wonder in there if you really looked for it.


Plus they did a video with the Fraggles.  A little happy right there.




This year we got two EPs from Pentatonix, and I loved them both.  The original songs aren’t as wonderful as the covers, maybe, but the sheer beauty of the vocal gymnastics on display gives me goose bumps. 


My favorite tracks, interestingly enough, came from their Christmas album, which had a version of O Come O Come Emmanuel that was beautiful and kind of terrifying.  And then there was The Christmas Song, with a “trumpet” solo by the beatboxer.


So good.




The Avengers/Cabin in the Woods


Five years ago, if you had told me Joss Whedon would have not just one, but TWO movies in theaters in the same year, I would have said you were crazy.


And if you had told me that they would both be great, and that one of them would be the biggest moneymaker of the summer?  And the third-highest-grossing movie in history?


As I told my friend: So, are we finally able to stop calling Whedon a cult phenomenon?  Because his movie made over a billion dollars…


And Cabin in the Woods?  The horror movies that mocks horror movie conventions, while still using them?  The movie that has the most insane final 20 minutes I’ve seen in a theater possibly ever?  (Oh.  Outside of Crank 2.  Which was CRAZY.)


It was a movie made for people like me.  It’s not often that I get one of those in theaters, as opposed on video when no one is looking…


Pitch Perfect:


When I was trying to compile a list o’ things I loved this year, this was, for a while, the only movie I could think of.  It’s a little overlong, but the script is covered in memorable one-liners, the actresses are all on their absolute A game, and watching a bunch of college kids making music just for the love of making music?


This one was made for me, too.


Also: Anna Kendrick.  Can we just put her in everything?  Such a good actress, such a great voice.




John Green: The Collected Works


A student of mine took to her blog to talk about how she was a huge fan of John Green, and in particular his newest book The Fault in Our Stars.


I picked up Fault, read it, and dug it enough to backfill all of John’s other novels.


John seems like a fine fellow, and he works hard to make his YA novels bounce past the clichés of YA.  The only problem is that they tend to land in the clichés of indie film because of that.


No matter.  The guy clearly loves language, loves his characters, and loves putting his stories into oddball but still mostly believable situations.


And I must go back to the fact that I chewed through all of his books in about two months, which I haven’t done since I discovered Rob Thomas. 


While I love Rob Thomas, he never managed to write a scene where someone takes a knee to the groin in a way I would describe as “poetic.”


Brendan Halpin: Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom


Yeah, he wrote it with someone else, but my only real complaint about this book is that I can never remember the title.  (I keep calling her Tess.)


Look, it’s a book about a lesbian that wants to go to prom in a town that hates the idea of it happening.  If you’re not into the idea, it won’t work for you.


But looking back on reading it, I think this is the John Hughes movie that John never lived to write and direct.  And unlike John Green’s books, which seem to go out of their way to have more ambiguous endings, this one ties up pretty neatly.


I am, quite frankly, shocked that someone hasn’t kicked 5 million into it and turned it into an indie flick starring a couple of former Disney channel stars looking to branch out.


Or maybe I’m cynical.


Which, hey, loops me right around.


There was other stuff I dug, too.  But I’m at 1900 words.  1900 words of happy.  Well, probably more like 400 of whining and 1500 of happy, but that’s pretty good, right?  More than 75%!

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