Monday, April 30, 2012

TV shows worth watching

Let me first begin by saying that DVR is the greatest invention of my generation, hands down. Ya, the internet has lots to offer but do you remember when you had to find a "tape" to record your favorite show so you could go out on a Wednesday night? Or worse, when you forgot to set up the tape or had to call your mom to hit record right at 8? The stress of that PLUS actually having to understand the Dewey Index System in order to research your book today shouldn't be having the troubles that they do because they don't even know what stress is!

So with unending gratitude to my DVR, I am able to sample lots of shows and decide which ones stay and which ones go from my weekly regiment. I won't kid you; most stay. There's a whole ranking system of what has to be watched on the night it airs vs. what can wait for the weekend and what needs my full attention vs what can be on in the background. Some shows are best enjoyed fresh while others should be savored marathon style when a few episodes have accumulated.

Let's dissect, day by day, what you should consider adding to your DVR repertoire.

Sunday: Mob Wives, Once Upon A Time, Tough Love, NYC 22
This is just right now. Two months ago, the #1 Sunday priority was clearly Downton Abbey.
For now, I stick with Mob Wives mostly out of loyalty, something very important to the ladies' way of life. Admittedly, I am like 5 episodes behind and have not enjoyed this season nearly as much now that new characters have been introduced to the posse. I'm a little mad at VH1 for assuming I will just accept them with no warning or introduction.
Once Upon A Time is really cute. It doesn't suck me in or get priority status but it's something Hubby and I can watch together and it'd definitely creative.
Tough Love New Orleans just started a couple of weeks ago. Week 1 was really great. Week 2 was vanilla. This will only be week 3 so the jury is still our. Generally, though, this show is a fun one and Steve Ward's no nonsense style is right up my alley.
NYC 22. I haven't actually watched it yet but I keep DVRing it in the hope that I will sit down one day and get into it. I think I initially set the recording for Hubby because it looks like a lot of the shows he has loved in the past but he has been watching them on demand so I don't know if this will stay on the list for long.
                                                            image from Wikipedia

Monday:How I Met Your Mother, RuPaul's Drag Race
HIMYM is one of the few sitcoms I care to follow regularly. New episodes are infrequent, it feels, but even catching a rerun is a good time. Let's be real, it's this generation's Friends. Good humor, characters you care about. Except Robin. I really don't like Robin. Am I supposed to?
RuPaul's Drag Race is super underrated. This show is the best combination of all things. It's funny and fluffy, catty as all competition shows should be, but also sneaks in valuable lessons about bullying and social equality. Not only that but they have their own lexicon that helps me feel like one "the girls".

Tuesday:White Room Challenge
This one is new to the list. Tuesdays were empty for a while after Teen Mom ended. I just can't do 16 and pregnant; even I have limits. It feels like it's one of 3 or 4 different depressing scenarios playing out each week. So I just discovered White Room Challenge on HGTV. It's an hour of fun with four designers tasked with one of the favorite challenges from each season fo HGTV's Design Star. They each have to transform a plain white room into something amazing using random things: sometimes it's restaurant supplies, sometimes it's flowers.

Wednesday:Survivor, Criminal Minds, America's Next Top Model, Couple's Therapy
Survivor is classic reality tv and I love it. Kudos to them for always trying to change some dynamic to make each season feel different, too. This season is filled with idiots and unlikeable ladies but it's still a priority.
Criminal Minds gets taped if there's time and space. It's totally not priority but can be a good compromise when Hubby wants to watch tv with me. It's a good show, don't get me wrong. But I don't need to follow it each week.
Top Model is also kind of weak this season with it's "British Explosion". But the weird photo shoots and crazy things that come out of Tyra's mouth keep me coming back for more!
Couple's Therapy is the first season of a new VH1 show. There are people who love reality tv Bravo style and then there are VH1ers, of which I fall into the latter category. I give most of what they throw at me a try. This show combines the therapeutic elements that we knew and loved from shows like Celebrity Rehab and it does involve D list celebrities, which is interesting because you get to see a totally unexpected side of their personas. I like this show most for the therapeutic interventions. Since that's my line of work, it's really cool to me to see how they "work" with the couples.
Wednesday is my favorite tv night of the week.
                                                                 Image from Wikipedia

Thursday:The Big Bang Theory, Touch, The Pauly D Project
Big Bang is just funny. Like HIMYM, it's just a sitcom that is just as good to watch as a rerun as new. It always brings a smile.
Touch is more for Hubby. To me, it's background tv. It's clever but I don't think dramas are my thing.
Pauly D. is one of those best devoured as a marathon shows. It's not Jersey Shore. It's not wonderful by any stretch of the imagination. I kind of hope it doesn't get a second season. But on a day when you don't really want to think, you can down a few episodes effortlessly. It's the Skittles of the tv world.

Friday:Who Do You Think You Are, The Ultimate Fighter
I feel really passionate about each of these shows in totally different ways.
Who do you think you are inspired it's own blog post once. It tracks the genealogy and stories of relatives of celebrities. It's fascinating, enriching, and often brings me to tears. It's also really frustrating because so much hard work is done for them and I am jealous. There, I said it. I want to be on the show.
The Ultimate Fighter is the only sport I care about. It's Mixed Martial Arts fighting. All the guys live in one house and train as two teams under pro coaches, who also fight at the end of the season. The fights are live and exciting. I like that it shows that these guys have real heart. They are not just meatheads wanting to be violent; they have dynamic background stories and you see more of their personalities than what gets to the ring. It's such an odd thing for me to adore and I don't even watch it with my husband. But I'm a super fan and this gets priority.
                                                            Pic from MMA weekly

Saturday: nothing
Saturday is meant for catching up on last week's shows! Maybe watch some HGTV shows, a little Storage Wars, some Golden Girls or Roseanne.

Let me close by cautioning that my DVR is 70-80% full most of the time because I don't really get to watch all of this tv every week. I only feel safe revealing all of this to you because you know that I am not a 659 lb man that sits on the couch only reviewing the above shows. I read, travel, exercise, go to work, live an otherwise fulfilling life without all of this "junk". But I believe tv is great self care; sometimes you need to shut down your own head for a bit and watch the drama that ensues on the screen. That's my rationalization, at least. What are your priority shows?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Boyfriends

1. I hate that Facebook sends me a text message when I try to log in from a "new device". Really?? My home computer that is 2.5 years old and way too slow is new to you?

2. I am not digging the new blogger interface. Maybe if I took the time to read about it I wouldn't be so cranky about it but I'm here to write, not to read. I totally sound like one of those people complaining about a new Facebook layout and "how can I get back the old version?". I think with Blogger there's actually a way but, again, that would require work I am not yet willing to expend. Complaining is so much easier. It's always been my go-to first course of action. People love that about me.

3. I found a new book boyfriend this weekend. His name is Chase Jennings and he lives in the book Article 5. I wrote a long,enthusiastic review on Goodreads already. You can find it here. If that let's you into my personal Goodreads page, my bad. If you want to impersonate me as a reader, at least make me look smart, please. But back to the important stuff: this book was radtastic. It was one of those books that makes you sad when you are finished because you like "spending time" with the characters so much. I didn't love the lead girl, Ember, so much. Her thought process was all wrong a lot of the time but it created more tension. In my review I likened it to Rhett and Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, how you just want to shake them and make them communicate more effectively and stop hurting each other. The lead male, my favorite book boyfriend to date, Chase, was just yummy. Surly and strong yet wounded and sensitive. Standing up for his girl and caring for her more than himself. That's the way it should be done!

4. Now I'm just killing time until Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent by Veronica Roth, arrives on my doorstep on Tuesday. I like the boyfriend in that, too. Four. For how many fears he has. I hate most of the character names in young adult books. I think that trend has something to do with all the weird names kids get now, an attempt by their parents to make them unique. As someone with a non-traditional name (but in a Golden Girls, old lady way and not a state-turned-name-replacing-an-i-with-a-y kind of name way), I will tell you that it's really frustrating as a kid to go to the dollar store or the Christmas Tree Shoppe and to not be able to find a pen/mug/key chain with your name on it. I think I have gone on this rant here before so I apologize....the scars of youth surface so quickly:) Anyway, I kind of like the name Four, contrary to all logic I just stated. And I like the character Four and am looking forward to him filling the book boyfriend spot on Tuesday that Chase left vacant this afternoon.

5. Maybe I will only write numbered posts from now on. They are good for my brain.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Thoughts

I'd like to start one of those "Thankful Thursday" or "Favorites Fridays" kinds of posts but I know as soon as I did, I would forget to post the following week and would feel too guilty and it would never work. Therefore, today you will get a jumble of list like items that I might have wanted to tell you about if I were able to gather all my thoughts consistently on one day of the week.

Also, I'd like to express my shame and sorrow at being the worst about posting travel pictures. When I am traveling, I am often thinking of how great it will be to blog about x,y, or z. But then I get home and life happens and it sweeps away all my good intentions. At least I have all these fun pictures, cool experiences, and totally accurate opinions to one day share with the world.

My most recent adventure was NYC last weekend. I firmly believe that it takes your next trip to make you fully appreciate your last trip and that was 100% the case for me. Being in New York made me able to complete some thoughts I had about Paris and fully form my experience of it. The two cities are similar in many ways so it was easy to draw comparisons. One area that NY wins, hands down? Pizza! I've been in search of the perfect fresh mozzarella Neapolitan in the Boston area since my return. (To be fair and give Paris an area in which it deserves a gold star, their Metro system is the most user friendly public transportation I have ever met. I kind of miss it.)

So I have been home recuperating from a little minor surgery this week and when I am not dozing from the meds, I have watched about a zillion episodes of Storage Wars, finished another YA novel, and discovered an amazing new website I need to share with you. It's called Forever Young Adult and it's for readers who are "a little more A and a little less Y". Perfect! They review all sorts of YA novels in a very cute way, rating whether the lead character is bff worthy, how swoonworthy the romance is and how intense of a relationship they want to have with this book. For example, they want to be buried with the Hunger Games while they just have summer flings with other books. Meanwhile, the book I finished was Birthmarked and I kind of wanted to leave it out in the rain when I was done. Too bad it the sky was clear.

In a final thought before I go consume a good portion of a pint of Ben and Jerry's Late Night Snack, I want to just express gratitude for my faith community. I really wish everyone had one because they are so helpful! Not only have they brought lots of great meals and daily homemade bread but daily visits and check ins have made what could have been a boring week much more pleasant. I love that an experience that most people view as negative such as surgery can turn into a great week for me!

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Hunger Games Movie Review: Part 2

After listing all the things I thought could have been done better in the Hunger Games movie, I felt a little bad. It's not a fair representation to list only the criticism. I guess I embrace the nay-saying comments more strongly because so many people really loved the movie and I don't feel it is deserving of such strong praise. But to balance out my gloomy Gus-ness of yesterday, today I will put a Pollyanna spin on the movie and list the things that were done really well.

1. Behind the scene of the Games. Hands down, this is what the movie did the best. Even better than the book, really, although maybe that's just my imagination's fault. I knew the games themselves were ripe for development on the big screen but was extra impressed with the communication of how the gamemakers manipulated the environment. The creation of the muttations was a highlight for me.
2. The Violence of the Games. A lot of people had opinions about this matter, especially curiosity before the movie was released. How do you show kids dying on screen in a tasteful way? They nailed this. The chaotic music, the screams, the blank eyes and yet only one image that sticks out in my mind as graphic. This was a tough one to balance and I think a middle ground was perfectly struck.
3. Peeta's camouflage. This detail, alone, might be enough rationale to make books into movies and balances out at least half of my negative comments from yesterday's post. The richness of the visual is what movies are all about and on screen this detail really came alive for me.
4. Katniss's dress. Another visual detail that only the big screen can really make you wrap your head around. I appreciated that it was not over the top.
5. Lenny Kravitz. He was just so good to look at. Enough said.

Photo credit to Lionsgate

6. Stanley Tucci. His look, his smile, his interviews. It just all felt right. In fact, I think he was way stronger than either of the leads when it came to the interviews. I absolutely adored when he appeared in the woods in Katniss's hallucination; it was so Willy Wonka-esque. He was over the top in the right way.

As a final note, I can't add Jennifer Lawrence to either list and I think that's noteworthy. Going into the movie theater, I had a lot of doubts about her as Katniss. Having seen her at the premiere and on magazine covers, she didn't appeal to me as an actress as the person to play such a pared down, humble character. She dresses and presents herself as more sexy than I would like a young adult female lead to model for the target demographic. Admittedly, I like the Twilight books and movies, too and feel I have been spoiled by the fact that Kristen Stewart and her character Bella seem relatively interchangeable. But when all was said and done, Lawrence did a decent job with the role and it's not part of her job to appear a certain way outside of filming.

I'd love to hear your opinions about the goods, the bads, and the Capital fashions!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Hunger Games Movie Review: Part 1

What did Siskel and Ebert call their movie reviews? Because it feels pretty lame-o to title this blog post "Hunger Games Movie Review". So uncool that I smiled and it felt hipster cool. Funny how that works.

But let's get down to the meat of things since this review is already nearly a month after the movie's release date. To people who read the series, the movie is still relevant even if it's a few weeks old so I still feel within my limits to rant about it.

The best way I can sum up my feelings about the movie is to say that I loved it the way that you love an alcoholic parent; it's all you've got so you cling to it. The Hunger Games trilogy of books were some of my favorites ever. Classical literature? Perhaps not. But compulsively readable? Totally! I legit locked myself in a spare room with snacks so I could totally focus (and keep my energy up) for hours at a time. I remember finishing one of them at like 2 am and instead of finally going to sleep, I went downstairs to retrieve the next one and start in on that. The point is I loved those books, the storyline, the characters... and I was pumped to see it come to the big screen.

Image from IMDB

I saw the movie three times. First, I took a day off from work and went with my cousin who had also read the books. We talked about book/movie comparisons enough to get shushed by the old lady in front of us. I almost threw down but I didn't want to miss any of the movie. My first impression was mostly positive because I really wanted to like it. The second time I went with a friend who had also already seen the movie. It was playing in the 21+ theater that includes popcorn and soda and we were hungry and thirsty and seeking some escapism. It was then that I started to dislike the movie. The third time I went with my husband who did NOT read the books and I wanted to see if he understood the flow or if he would want to read the books after. There were some pretty big gaps in the relationship development and I wanted to see how he perceived it all. I also wanted to see if he jumped when the muttations came out of the woods. He was a wonderful test subject and didn't disappoint on any of the test variables.

So what's so hard to love about this movie? This requires a list.
1. Katniss and Peeta's young love. Let's just start with the biggest. The development of this relationship is pretty essential to the whole series so to mess that up feels like a big deal to me. I felt like the movie didn't make Katniss's ambivalence clear enough or explain it enough. In the book, it's much more clear that she is playing up the romance based on Haymitch's advice but that gets really glossed over in the movie.
2. Rue and Katniss's relationship. To be fair, the movie did a good job conveying the grief Katniss felt about Rue. I think this issue was more about time; the inevitable lack of time a movie has to get across so many nuances. There wasn't enough time in the movie to give a lot of air to create more depth to this relationship. However, it could have been more spelled out that Rue reminded Katniss of her sister.
3. Haymitch's air time. Woody makes a great Haymitch, don't get me wrong. While I read it, I pictured more of a Robert Downey, Jr, to be honest but I was not disappointed with the casting choice. Nor can I justifiably complain about how  he played the role or developed the character. There were just a few more details that felt important to me while reading the book that were omitted. Again, I recognize that the movie had quite an undertaking to capture the whole story and edits were needed. That being said, Haymitch falling off the stage and then when Peeta put him to bed so Katniss didn't have to felt like they would have been easy enough additions. Especially the putting to bed part because it helped develop the relationship between Peeta and Katniss.
4. The reaping. Two things about this, one of which is partially resolved. The clothing and setting seemed very antiquated. A futuristic setting was not translated. Even in a really poor community, I would think the hand-me-down clothing would be more from our current day and age than what appeared to be from the 50's. And the black and white pictures?? This is the one that is partially resolved for me, though, because my husband hypothesized that simple, handmade clothing would be cheaper as would non-colored photography so that was what I was seeing. I'll take it.
The one that is not yet resolved for me is when Katniss volunteers in the book, Effie makes a bigger statement about participation in the games being an honor and that she didn't want her sister to steal the glory. A little detail, a simple scripted line, but it really drove home the Capital's lack of understanding the population, an especially valuable point in relating the Capital to our own government and times when the collective "we" don't feel we are represented.
5. Gale and Katniss. Well, Gale at all. He was good to look at but we didn't see much of him. And for  my taste, the feeling that the two were romantically involved was more strong than I took away from the book. This relationship will also be key in subsequent movies so I am curious as to how it will be handled.
6. President Snow. He was a villian in this movie in a clearer way than I felt when reading the book. And so many of those conversations didn't actually happen. To be honest, I don't know totally why some of them were added to the movie. Some, I know, were added to move the plot along but others could have been omitted to make more room for some of the things I listed above.

Ok, so this is really long and I haven't told you the positives yet. I'm just being a Negative Nancy and that's not fair because, overall, I am still really grateful for the movie. I enjoyed the hype and will still be super excited for #2. Despite the myriad of evidence in this post to the contrary, I'm not mad at how the movie came out, overall. Which makes me think that tomorrow's post will tell you all the things I enjoyed about the movie. Because I'm a glass half full kind of gal and want to leave you on a high note:)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Crack

The way I usually feel about travel is the way I am currently feeling about books. My inbox is usually very full of travel deal emails that I enjoy pouring over when I need to decompress. Lately, though, my most exciting emails are my Goodreads updates, the Barnes and Noble "What we've been reading", and the Amazon price alerts for deals on books on my wishlist.

I fully confess that I am way too into young adult dystopian novels, especially trilogies, right now. Why are they all trilogies?? And because they are fast reads, I am more frequently in search of my next fix. I read other people's reviews and keep a lengthy to-read list, doing my research the way I would if I were searching out a good hotel for a trip. Ok, I admit it. Even more than I would do for a hotel.

It's actually been really enlightening to note that I go on book theme kicks the same way I do with certain foods. In college I was obsessed with red Jello-they kind you buy premade, not the looser kind you mix yourself. I loved it and ate at least one a day, often washed down with red Kool Aid, another kick at the time. It was a very distinct time and then it just ended. I very rarely have Jello or Kool Aid anymore (that line would fit perfectly in an elementary school kid's primer, huh? because I think they are the only people who should really be uttering such a statement).

Historical fiction, specifically English Tudor court history was a big kick for a while. It was my red jello. I read Philippa Gregory like she was a guru. I wrote her book release dates in my calendar and made sure to work a trip to the bookstore in on those days. Now, I just pre-ordered Insurgent, the follow up to Divergent by Veronica Roth, to get delivered to my door the day it comes out. Clearly, I am regressing and morphing into a 14 year old girl again. Which reminds me that I still want to write about my thoughts on the Hunger Games movie!....expect that tomorrow:)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Catching up...I seem to need to do this a lot

I haven't written a post in forever but it's not for lack of thinking about it!
First, I spent a week in Paris. I don't like to publicize my trips before I go just for home security and such so I couldn't share all of my excitement leading up to what I considered the trip of a lifetime. I had been dreaming about all that Paris would be since middle school. Well, it wasn't all that I dreamed it would be. It was different than I expected but once I let that settle in, Paris was certainly charming and I am looking forward to sharing pictures and writing much more about which sites I think you could bypass and which excursions are not to be missed.
When I first returned home from my trip, I was hit with some challenging news that would impact family finances. So another big trip may not be in the cards for 2012....although I won't rule anything out yet!
Then I started writing a review of the Hunger Games movies. And even though it will be stunningly outdated by the time I post it, I still plan to. It brought up a lot of feelings for me as I looooved the book series and was so curious to see how it would translate on screen.
But I am finally here now and as superficial as this post may be, it's  my entry back into blogging. Just laying the ground work to start sharing my thoughts again......
So happy day after Easter! And we will be conversing again soon!