Archive | March, 2010

Signs of Life

30 Mar

My first game review for Paste Magazine has been published! I checked out the gorgeous-to-behold Japanese RPG Final Fantasy XIII, and felt pretty conflicted on it. There were some things about the game that I liked, but a lot of other things that I didn’t. The review is online here, and will be in the June print edition.

Huge thanks to Jason Killingsworth for being a rockin’ editor. And I’ll be doing more reviews for them in the future, too, which will be super fun. Onward!

Abed Nadir Knows What Time It Is

28 Mar

I love Community. Honestly, it might be the funniest show on TV right now. I know I just said that about Archer, but man, Community is just killing lately.

Troy is probably my favorite character – I hope that they have him break down in tears every episode (last week’s “It’s a cookiewand!” outburst still has me laughing). But it’s hard to deny that Abed is the show’s heart and soul.

Just like Community itself, Abed bridges the gap between meta humor (his are by far the most overtly meta of all of the characters’ jokes) and surprisingly earnest stories (his side stories usually involve him surprising everyone by not being the clichéd antisocial dork that his “character” would be on a TV show).

It helps that Danny Pudi is rocking it, knocking out of the park every new challenge the writers throw his way. His “Gruff black police sergeant who reams the loose-cannon detectives” last week was amazing, and essentially lifted straight out of Beverly Hills Cop, minus about a billion swear words.

And last week’s episode also contained a little character detail that sealed Abed’s status as the Über-Geek. If you need any further proof that the man truly, deeply Knows What Time It Is, might I direct your attention to Exhibit A:

That’s right: Milk Duds. Dude could’ve been eating Doritos or corn-nuts, sour-patch kids or popcorn, but no. As would any truly seasoned movie-watching veteran, Abed goes with the single most delicious, effective, and long-lasting snack on the face of the planet. He chooses the Duds.

Well played, Mr. Nadir. I expected no less.

New Instructional Article: Approach Notes

22 Mar

"For my first example, I'm going to be misreading the teleprompter, then doing some cursing."

My latest instructional article for Acoustic Guitar magazine is now online! It covers a few techniques for adding approach-notes to your improvising, and it’ll run in next month’s print edition of the magazine. The awesomest part is that for the first time, the online version features video. So, if you’ve ever wanted to see my super-sweet teleprompter-reading skills in action, then my friend, you are in LUCK.

I had a really good time working on it – thanks to Adam Traum for being such a pleasure to work with behind the camera. Also, huge thanks to my buddy Dan Apczynski for being an outstanding editor and helping put the video shoot together, as well as for lending his guitar playing to the last video, a duet on “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

So yeah, check it out!

A Misty-Eyed Montage

11 Mar

Over at Gamer Melodico, I made this video. For a more in-depth description of why, you can check out what I wrote over there, but suffice to say: I like the Phoenix Wright games a lot.  Actually, for longtime readers of this site, that’ll come as no surprise.

So, I decided to record my own arrangement of one of my favorite tunes from the first game. I then edited in some stills and fan art from around the internet, one thing led to another, and I came up with a pretty epic tribute to one of the most endearing casts of characters in video game history.

On a musical note, I played flute, clarinet, guitar, whistling, piano, mallets, percussion, and various sampled instruments, and made it in about three hours (so please forgive whatever unpolished-ness there might be in the video or audio).

I hope you enjoy it!

John Casey Cuts To The Chase

10 Mar

"Because the only thing I hate more than hippie fascist neo-liberal anarchists..."

"...are the hypocrite fat-cat suits they eventually grow up to become."

(Via)

TV Round-Up

4 Mar

Remember, like, six years ago when Friends ended and everyone was saying that the sitcom was dead? HA! Maybe we can finally learn to never listen to those people who say kinds of things again.  At the moment, in addition to a few hour-long dramas, I feel absolutely swamped by quality half-hour comedy programs. Some are great, and actually, a few upstarts have dethroned the reigning champs.  To start with…

Archer just might be the goddamned funniest show on TV at the moment. No other show cracks me up as consistently or hysterically.  If you’re not watching, it turns out that FX on demand has three trailing episodes, so you can kind of catch up if you have Comcast.  And since what might be the show’s funniest episode yet, “The Honeypot,” is still up, you don’t have to miss out. The voice cast is outta sight – H. John Benjamin, Chris Parnell, and Arrested Development vets Jessica Walter and Judy Greer, the latter of whom has like the sexiest voice ever. For some reason they’ve become obsessed with having her character sit around and fantasize about being choked, and it is… uncomfortable. And hilarious.  And.. hot?  Um.  Anyway. If my re-enactment of one of the pilot’s most obscure jokes didn’t convince you, hopefully this will: don’t miss out on the funniest show on the air right now, and the one with the best catch phrases. “Thank yew.” “YUUU*p*” “Nice Read, Velma,”  and, of course, “Daynja Zone!”

And, in keeping with the “new shows unseating old ones,” theme here, it’s time to look at the old champs – for a long time, The Office and 30 Rock fulfilled my Yin/Yang comedy needs. It seems as though comedies always come in twos – one show is the character-driven, occasionally warm-hearted one, and the other the zanier one that relies on jokes.  The first, and hugest, duo for me was Friends and Seinfeld.  And then, for a long time, it was The Office and 30 Rock.  But The Office has fallen on tough times for me lately, with Jim and Pam being increasingly revealed to be kinda mean people who have no life outside of work and yet insist on holding themselves as better than those around them.  And 30 Rock will never be truly unfunny or anything, but all the same, it hasn’t been really working for me for a long time.

Which brings me to my new comedy Yin/Yang team: Parks and Recreation and Community.  Oh, man, are you watching these shows?  Because you should be.  I’ve listed the reasons why you should be watching Parks and Recreation before – and those reasons still stand, and then some.  But at the same time, there’s one more – Ron Effing Swanson. Nick Offerman is doing some frigging outstanding work here, bringing an incredible level of humor and heart to TV’s gruffest character. He and Amy Poehler are gold together, in a way that actually rivals Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.  Watch this show!  Watch it!

Community, on the other hand, you’re probably already watching.  It started out okay, but has gradually evolved to be second only to Archer in laughs-per-minute. The show is blessed with a ridiculously good cast – every single character is hilarious, though of course the biggest laughs go to Troy and Abed every week.  Couple the great writing with some genuinely sweet character notes (and the fact that over the past few weeks, Brita has gone from irritating to really nice/hot as lava) and we’ve got a must-watch show.

Chuck remains a really fun show, even though I’m a little disappointed with this season. It’s always hard when a show cuts back on its budget – even when the magic is still there (and with Chuck, it certainly is), it’s hard not to feel a little deflated by the smaller cast, re-used sets, and lower-budget look of everything. Same thing happened with Buffy in later seasons.  Anyway, I couldn’t believe the whole freak-out that hardcore fans had over that episode from a couple weeks ago. Don’t these people understand that writers write whole seasons? Obviously Chuck and Sarah are going to get together, who cares if they don’t get together RIGHT THIS INSTANT?  Sheesh.  Anyway, always enjoyable, but if you’re not on the bus by now, maybe there’s no reason to go out of your way.

Lost enters its final season, and I don’t have much to say about it yet… I do recommend checking out Joe R’s posts on Low Resolution, since he’s been posting after just about every episode, and also managed to get a screenshot of Kate that sums up the season so far more hilariously than I ever could.  (Screengrab is to the right. Thanks, Joe.) I haven’t seen this week’s Sayid-centric episode, though I heard some good things… but I have been pretty frustrated so far.  I’m sure it’s just a slow start, and things’ll get moving soon, but the show really does feel like its returned to the energy of season one, and that’s not a good thing for me.  But they won enough points by bring the show back from suckitude in season four that I’ll see it through.

I’ve been doing a Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con with my cousin and sister, and we’ve been watching Caprica. So far, I’m not really into it. It’s pretty much just a drama with no action, sort of like Dallas with Cylons… and there’s a lot of teen angst, and a lot of the performances seem a bit… off? Or maybe it’s just a prequel problem. Anyway, it’s great to see Eric Stoltz up there, and I love Paula Malcomson (aka Trixie from Deadwood), but her character is a cipher who, in a recent episode, did the single dumbest, most poorly-explained thing I’ve seen in a while on a show.  If a show is going to make its characters do self-destructive things, it at least needs to make us understand the character enough to get it – I think that so far, Caprica’s characterization has been weak, and as a result, none of the drama feels compelling. I’m probably spoiled from Battlestar, but so far, I’m not willing to use my imagination to take the show the final few yards to “Truly Engaging.”

I could not be more excited for David Simon’s new show, Tremé, to premiere next month. A show by the creator of The Wire about jazz musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans? IN. It’s starring a ton of real local cats, headed up by the super cool Kermit Ruffins (who I’ve gotten to see do his thing live a couple of times, and is the real fucking deal.) Actually, I’m planning on blogging about the show each week, so I hope that if you’re watching it, you’ll come on by.

I’m also excited about The Pacific. I rewatched Band of Brothers recently and was amazed at how well it’s aged – I guess that sounds kind of stupid, huh. Of course it’s “aged” well, it’s an incredible story, well-told. Anyway, that miniseries was a freaking landmark achievement, and is as emotionally powerful now as ever. I recommend watching it again, too – you’ll probably have an easier time keeping track of who’s who, and Alan Sepinwall’s recaps are really good.  I bet he’ll have some awesome stuff up about The Pacific, too.

In the “catching up/rewatching” department, I rewatched some of Deadwood Season 1 and Veronica Mars season one.  Both were remarkable for different reasons – Veronica was such a gritty show in its first season, I’d totally forgotten. It tackled some hardcore topics, and allowed its characters to react to them like real people would… very cool. Deadwood was amazing simply for the language – the second time through, the fact that I knew who everyone was and where it was all going really let me sit back and enjoy the incredible writing. However, I could already sense things losing focus halfway through the first season, and the show never really did capture the magic it had during those first few episodes.  Call me a heretic, but knowing that it’s not going to end (ever) makes it pretty tough to really be stoked about a re-watch. I’m also catching up on Breaking Bad Season 2, and that show is totally, utterly amazing, but I can’t really write more, since I haven’t finished the second season. Jaegle tells me that until I’ve done that, I don’t deserve to have any opinions about the show.

Last thing: American Idol. I haven’t written much about the show yet because, well, there hasn’t been much to say.  I’ve seen all the contestants perform, and my overwhelming impression has been that they are all just super green. So many little high schoolers who don’t seem too different from the kids I teach at Urban… maybe I’m just getting old, but it’s been hard to get very excited about anyone.  Some of the girls this week stepped to, and I’m interested to see if Krystal, Siobhan, and Lilly could get more interesting… but at the moment, I just don’t really care. EW’s Idolatry videos are still fricking hilarious, though, and Jacob Clifton’s recaps at TWoP are the stuff of legend, as usual.

I think Ellen is doing a good job, and seems to have found her angle in addressing whether or not the performances felt true. Randy remains as useless as ever, and last night seemed actually kind of frustrated with his worthlessness. Ha!  Randy! You’re frustrated because you’re not doing a good job!

But can I just ask the internet at large: what is up with Simon and Kara? They are like crammed together in each others’ personal space for every single episode… they almost seem joined at the hip.  Kara will be giving feedback and Simon’s big hairy elbow will be right up in her face, like, he is entirely visible in her shots… it’s really weird.  I’m imagining what it would be like to spend the entire hour sitting that close to someone, and there’s no way they don’t think it’s odd, or that they’re not doing it on purpose.  What the hell is going on?

To prove I wasn’t imagining things, I grabbed some screenshots from last night:


Amiright? Simon is like halfway out of his chair. Weird.

Anyhow, that’s it for me and TV-land. Anyone out there watching anything else of interest? Everyone stoked for the return of Glee? It’s an embarrassment of TV-riches out there right now, folks. Hope you can find time to shower.

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