New TV: Things I Watched Tonight (9/29)

Since Drew and I have cut the cable cord, we’re watching all of our television whenever it ends up showing up on Hulu+ which means that what night I watch shows won’t correspond to the nights they actually air. What this means for you is that instead of organizing my New TV posts by what night the shows air, I’ll just be posting them at random, as I end up watching them. I’ll be sure to put what night and time they actually air, so that anyone with regular cable can find them.

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A to Z (NBC, Thursdays, 9:30/8:30c)

This is clearly supposed to be the new How I Met Your Mother – and I’m not just saying that because the Mother (Cristin Milioti) is in it. Basically, Andrew and Zelda will date for 8 months, 3 weeks, 1 day, and 5 hours (or something like that) and this is the complete record of their relationship. The catch is that we don’t know whether at the end of that time they’ll break up or if they’ll get married. The pilot was called Acquaintances, so I can only assume that they’ll be working through the alphabet, though that will limit them somewhat in twenty-six episodes. It sounds like I’m being kind of snarky about this show, but I actually really liked it. Everyone is likable, I’m obsessed with Cristin Milioti’s canines (they’re so pointy!), it’s got the girl who played Annie in the original Being Human, Rashida Jones is a producer, it’s narrated by Katey Sagal (whom I mistook for Alison Janney)…what’s not to like?! It’s not often a pilot is so engrossing, so I hope they keep up the good work!

Brooklyn Nine Nine (Fox, Sundays, 8:30/7:30c)

It’s back! I’m super excited – if it weren’t for Parks and Recreation, this would be my favorite show on TV, hands down! WATCH IT!

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Mondays, 8/7c)

I know this show has a lot of haters out there and, true, if you’re looking for subtle, nuanced, witty humor, this is not the show for you. But it’s mindless fun for me and still manages to make me laugh even though I can see the jokes coming a mile away. I’m totally not embarrassed that I watch this show. Really. I swear. Okay, please don’t tell anyone I watch this show!

How to Get Away With Murder (ABC, Thursdays, 10/9c)

So I’m suuuuuuuuper late to the Shonda Rhimes party. Drew loves Grey’s Anatomy and the entire world loves Scandal, so I was determined to get in on the ground floor of her newest show, How to Get Away With Murder. And, I have to ask, is this what Shonda Rhimes’ other shows are like? Because if they are, I am going to have to mainline them, like, yesterday. Love it! Viola Davis is awesome (so the character is a bit House but with heels and as an attorney), I actually like the young law students (though if this was a 100-level class, should she really be hiring them at her law office?), I can tell we’re going to get a traditional case of the week but there is also a super fantastic overarching plot line that I’m anxious to see resolve over the course of the season. I’m hooked!

Black-Ish (ABC, Wednesdays, 9:30/8:30c)

I’m withholding judgement on this show until it can get a few episodes under its belt. It definitely felt like a pilot episode, trying to introduce its audience to everyone without really giving any of the characters much depth, but I feel like it has potential, so hopefully once it settles into its rhythm, it’ll get better.

Getting Caught Up: Book Edition

Part of my plan to get through the worst of my depression included rekindling my love of reading, something that the depression was sucking the joy completely out of. Frankly, since working at HK, I think my reading had been slightly less voracious – not entirely surprising when my job consisted of a lot of reading (after reading a set of pages for 8 hours at work, the last thing I really wanted to do when I got home was crack open a book). So one of my many goals is to read at least just a little bit every day. (Over the summer, to supplement our lack of income, Drew and I were doing plasma donation which basically meant a mandatory two hours of reading time each week and that definitely helped get me back into the habit of reaching for a book.)

And it seems to be working! Back in August, I set myself a Goodreads goal of finishing 10 books by the end of the year (I figured better to start off super achievable and make things more difficult if I reached that goal). Well, by early September, I’d already met that goal, so I’ve upped it to 20 books by the end of the year. We’ll see how I do! In the meantime, here are quick reviews of the 11 books I’ve read so far (from first read to most recently read):

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

When I spoke briefly with a counselor on campus, he suggested trying to live mindfully and recommended a couple of books for me. I have a couple others on the shelf that I need to get through, but I decided to try this one out. It was not really my thing… A little too floaty for my tastes, I think. I’m keeping my mind open to mindfulness, but I”m hoping the other books I have to try out will be a little more down-to-earth.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R.R. Martin

As I said earlier, Drew and I mainlined our way through the HBO Game of Thrones series this spring. Originally I’d been intending to read the books first cuz I”m a snob like that, but these books are door stops and it just wasn’t going to happen. But it’s kind of worked out for the best because between the TV show and the books, I think I’m finally understanding what’s actually going on. It’s hard to tell all the bearded men apart on television, so a lot of things are making a lot more sense now that I’m reading the books. I’m about a third of the way through the second book and so far the story lines all mirror the show’s pretty closely, but I’ve heard that later on they’ll diverge, so I’m interested to find out what the differences are.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

So super interesting and made me wish I could still go to space camp! I really hope I live to see us send someone to Mars.

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

A fascinating look at the ways people have tried to prove the existence of an afterlife.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I knew Steve really enjoyed this book, so when I was selecting books to stay with me versus books that would be relegated to the basement, I decided to keep this one handy on the bookshelves. Then when i started listening to I Don’t Even Own a Television, I saw that one of their episodes was dedicated to this book. What?! I cried, But Steve really liked this book! So I decided to get to the bottom of things. I devoured this book in the car on the way to Colorado with my parents and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I listened to the podcast episode for this book and, yeah, I could sort of see where they were coming from, but I decided that I don’t care – I fell for the nostalgia. I liked this book.

Girl Walks Into a Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle by Rachel Dratch

I’ve been writing these mini-reviews as I become inspired and this is the last one left. And I’m not inspired. Rachel Dratch seems likable enough, but I just feel kind of blah towards this book. Not bad, that’s for sure, but I can’t think of anything to say about it, so make of that what you will…

How the Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #9) by Louise Penny

Louise Penny dominates my Facebook feed and I don’t even follow her! It’s that almost all of my friends from Borders adoooooooore her. So after chatting with Ruth, Missy, and Cayt a few weekends ago, I decided that I would finally drink the Kool-Aid. And it tastes gooooood! Unfortunately, I had to start with the 9th book in the series, but according to Louise Penny’s very own website, the books are written to stand alone. I would like to disagree (and I think Missy and Linda, at least, have my back). While I could follow along perfectly well with the story, it was clear that there were other, larger story arcs and character development that would have meant a bit of a deeper read had I started at the very beginning. But, as Linda pointed out, all this means is that I’ll get to read this one again when I’ve finished with the first eight.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Awesome, awesome book. Sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, always interesting. The main thing I took away from reading this book was that I, Anne of myblankpage, being of sound mind, do hereby bequeath my body to science, once any helpful organs have been donated.

Big Fat Lies That Women Tell Themselves: Ditch Your Inner Critic and Wake Up Your Inner Superstar by Amy Ahlers

I’ve never read a self-help book before, but I know self-confidence has always been a problem for me and decided that, as part of my get my life back together and get through this depression, I would set aside my reluctance and give it a go (though with a grain of salt). I liked the chatty, conversational tone the author strikes – it doesn’t feel condescending or anything, it feels like she’s speaking from having been there herself. But I will confess to an eye roll or two along the way and I didn’t really feel inspired to do the little challenges that go along with each Lie. However. I think I may need to revisit this one because last weekend, I was shopping for a dress to wear to Laura and Tyler’s wedding next weekend and found myself getting more and more frustrated. Finally, I was trudging through Younkers, my shoes wearing a blister into my toe, and with each painful step, a voice in my head said,”You fucking deserve that, you dumb fat fuck.” So, yeah, there’s a bit of insight into my inner critic and I definitely need to work on that.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

While I was reading it, I didn’t like it. But when I finished it, I was like “Huh. I think that was a really good book.” Sort of like a modern, short story, tangled, Dickensian web.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I’ll be honest. I did NOT like the main character. Not. One. Bit. But I liked the supporting characters and I found myself turning the pages despite myself. I could have done without the calculus, though. And the footnotes. Unlike Mary Roach, John Green does not pull them off. But I didn’t hate it, so…

Birthday Collage Answers!

Now some of these were a bit of a stretch, I know, but I think the real hint is in the 30 Rock picture. Look closely, it’s a picture of the 30 Rock porn parody. Answers below!

birthday-collage-answers

  1. That’s a picture of M34, a cluster of stars in the constellation Perseus.
  2. That’s is a graphic representation of the Fibonacci sequence of which 34 is the 10th number.
  3. That’s me! Today is my 34th birthday!
  4. There are 34 islands in the Mediterranean.
  5. Shaquille O’Neal’s number with the L.A. Lakers was 34.
  6. The international calling code for Spain is +34.
  7. In a 4×4 magic square, each of the rows and columns adds up to 34.
  8. There were 34 stars on the American flag prior to the Civil War.
  9. The atomic number of Selenium is 34.
  10. And rule 34 of the internet: If it exists, there is porn of it.

Thanks for playing! :)

Getting Caught Up: Podcast Edition

Short version: I have discovered the wonder that is podcasts.

Long version: I used to listen to comedy radio via Pandora while I was working at HK which introduced me to a whole new world of comedians, one of whom was Doug Benson. In one of the Doug Benson bits that I heard, he mentioned that he had a podcast called Doug Loves Movies. So I checked it out. It was awesome! Then, on one of his podcasts, he had on Pete the Retailer and Alex Robinson to promote their podcast, Star Wars Minute. Love it! On another one of his podcasts, he mentioned that he was going to be on an episode of @midnight which is hosted by Chris Hardwick (who was also an occasional guest on Doug Loves Movies). I knew Chris Hardwick was part of – or creator of? – Nerdist and decided to check out his podcast. Wonderful! And then Doug mentioned yet another podcast that he does called Dining With Doug and Karen which is super fun, too! I’m not sure how I ended up discovering How Did This Get Made? but it is hilarious. I had heard of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, but had never listened to it and was pleasantly surprised when it accompanied me on a drive to Chicago a few weeks ago for Cayt’s baby shower. I had been meaning to listen to The Alton Browncast for a while, but only finally got around to it a month or so ago and really enjoyed it. And last up is I Don’t Even Own a Television which is basically How Did This Get Made? but for books. Yay!

The premise: Doug Benson hosts various comedians, actors, etc. and they talk about movies. The podcasts usually include various movie-themed games such as The Seth Rogen Game AKA Last Man Stanton where the panelists have to list as many movies as they can from an audience-chosen actor, actress, or director and the last panelist left wins. The Seth Rogen Game often leads into the Leonard Maltin Game which is sort of like Name That Tune but for movies.

Why I love it: Doug Benson is eminently likable as are most, if not all, of the comedians he has on – most of them are close friends of his and it shows in the easy rapport between them. The panelists are always funny and the podcast is always good for a laugh. The games are fun to play along with at home, especially the Leonard Maltin game which is actually pretty difficult!

The premise: Alex Robinson, Pete the Retailer, and various guests watch and discuss the Star Wars movies one minute at a time.

Why I love it: These guys know their Star Wars. Besides a lot of funny moments (I think I laughed hardest at the episodes around Yoda’s home and the “evil cave” that he sends Luke into), I’ve learned an awful lot about minor Star Wars characters. Also the hosts and their guests are very likable (this is a very important part of podcasts to me) and it’s interesting to find out how Star Wars affected them growing up.

The premise: Chris Hardwick, accompanied sometimes by Jonah Ray and Matt Mira talk to comedians, musicians, and actors.

Why I love it: Two words. Chris. Hardwick. He is probably the most thoughtful interviewer I’ve ever heard. And the podcasts are less interviews and more conversations. He has really interesting and honest chats with the guests he has on and almost every single time it comes across as two friends just having a chat, no matter if his guest is someone that he’s been friends with for a long time or someone he’s just met. He seems to put everyone almost immediately at ease and isn’t afraid to share things about himself or his life – he definitely keeps up his part of the conversation which I really enjoy. The podcast also hosts tremendously interesting people – there are a LOT of podcasts (I came to this quite late) and whenever I scroll through the feed to choose one to listen to, I inevitably have a hard time choosing which one to listen to first! Doug Benson, Mira Sorvino, Jim Gaffigan, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Spoon, Charlie Day, Joel Hodgson, and Jeff Bridges are just a few of the incredibly diverse guests that have been on Nerdist. Highly, highly recommended!

The premise: Comedians Doug Benson and Karen Anderson invite a guest, usually a fellow comedian, to chat with them while being served food made by a professional chef

Why I love it: Doug Benson, various comedians that often have also been guests on Doug Loves Movies, and food? What’s not to love?!

The premise: Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael watch a terrible movie and talk about how terrible it really is.

Why I love it: I like Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas from The League (Andre and Raffi, respectively) and June Diane Raphael (Paul Scheer’s wife) is very funny also. The movies that they watch are laughably bad on their own, but listening to Paul, Jason, and Diane talk about the horror of watching it and what could possibly have been going through the minds of the people making the movie makes it one hilarious podcast. Start with Birdemic: Shock and Terror and go from there!

Note: When I listened to the Fast Five episode (I think it was the Fast Five one – one of the Fast and the Furious ones, at lest), there was a throwaway line from Jason Mantzoukas that made me laugh so hard – I was sitting on the couch with Drew, started laughing, had to get up to use the restroom, and continued laughing hysterically in the bathroom. “Must. Murder. With. Wrench.”

The premise: A panel of comedians and NPR regulars compete in a contest about the week’s news stories.

Why I like it: It’s funny and it makes me feel smart to listen to anything from NPR. Also, along with The Daily Show this is basically the only way I can tolerate paying attention to the news.

The premise: Alton Brown interviews various people (some chefs, some not).

Why I like it: I’ve always been a fan of Alton Brown from his shows on the Food Network and it turns out he, like Chris Hardwick, also has a knack for very thoughtful interviews. He actually made me (grudgingly) like Alex Guarnaschelli, which is saying a lot!

The premise: How Did This Get Made? but for books.

Why I like it: Did you read the premise? Have you met me? Then you know why I like it. Start with Covert Conception with Mara Wilson and go from there. I don’t necessarily like the fact that they didn’t like Ready, Player One which I did like (more on that in a later post), but it’s still a funny show.

The premise: Radio broadcasts from the local station in Night Vale where bizarre goings-on are the norm.

Why I like it: I’ll be honest with you and admit that I’ve only listened to the first ten or so and that I need to go back and start over at the beginning – unlike all the other podcasts on this list, this one calls for complete attention and when I’m driving, I tend to end up missing things (in the podcast, not on the road, don’t worry), so I need to just take the time to listen to it without trying to multitask at the same time. But it’s surreal and drily funny and has a huge internet following.

Lovely fall food!

On Sunday, Drew and I invited the students in his saxophone studio over to watch the Packers game as a welcome back for the new school year. Drew made two different kinds of chili – one was chipotle and chicken and one was a vegetarian chili verde. I didn’t actually try the chipotle and chicken version, but it smelled amazing; the veggie chili was soooooo tasty – and I think most of the students stayed away which is fine – more for me! My contributions were the cornbread (my go-to cornbread – I prefer a sweet cornbread, more like cake than anything),

and two desserts. The first was brownies with caramel, pecans, and pretzels – they were super yummy, if a little bit too much for me.

The second was an apple streusel bar with homemade salted caramel sauce. The sauce is a-MAH-zing. I’ve always been a bit scared of homemade caramel – I’ve done it, but I’m not super consistent – but this recipe was so easy and turned out so well, sweet and salty and caramel-y and perfect. By far my favorite dessert of the two. Yum!

Not very good for my diet, but good for my tastebuds!

Getting Caught Up: TV Edition

As you may or may not know, my favorite time of year is fast approaching! Fall? I do like it, but it’s not my favorite. My birthday? Pretty darn good, but still not my favorite. New television? HELL to the YES! I got my Fall TV Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly last Monday and I’ve been saving it for just the right time. But before I unleash the onslaught of new TV upon you, I figured I’d catch you up on television that I’ve discovered during the past year. I’m definitely a latecomer to a few of these, but hopefully at least one will be a new jewel of a recommendation for you.

Quick Draw (Hulu/Hulu Plus)

OMG, I loooooove Quick Draw so much! It’s a mostly improvised fish-out-of-water story – Sheriff John Henry Hoyle is Harvard-educated (as he is always quick to mention) and is attempting to bring law and order to the Wild West town of Great Bend, Kansas in 1875. The supporting cast are great and they’re all hilarious. I honestly can’t recommend Quick Draw enough – go watch it!

The League (Wednesdays @ 9:00-9:30 CST, F/XX, past seasons available on Netflix or Amazon Prime)

I don’t remember what made me turn to The League one evening on Netflix, but it seemed that I’d heard good things about it. After the first episode, I thought ‘Wow, these characters are SUPER unlikable… I’m going to watch another episode.’ Five seasons later and I still don’t know why I’m hooked, but I am. Hooked!

Archer (F/X, season 6 begins in early 2015, past seasons available on Netflix)

I’ve been trying to watch this show for ages – so many people whose tastes I really respect absolutely adore Archer. I tried a year or two ago and just couldn’t get into it. For whatever reason, the timing just wasn’t right. But a few months ago, the stars must have aligned because I love it – it’s so funny! Highly, highly recommended.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix, season 3 begins in mid-2015)

Yet another one that i’d heard was good from a lot of different people and yet had never really had much interest in. But we signed up for Netflix as part of our fuck-you to the cable company and one day while I was dog sitting and waiting for said dog to remember me and stop trying to eat me I decided to just check this out. So glad I did! It’s not a perfect show – I have conflicting feelings about the main character, Piper – but we’re really enjoying it!

Game of Thrones (HBO, season 5 begins in spring of 2015)

I think we may be the very last people on the planet to watch Game of Thrones. I had been planning on attempting to read the books before watching the show, but given that we’re already in season 5 of the show and each of those books is a doorstopper, I figured it just wasn’t going to happen and we dove in. There are a TON of people to keep track of – lots of men with beards – and lots of different story lines going all at once, but once we had sort of figured out who was who, we mainlined the rest of the series in a couple of weeks. So good! And it’s so much fun to gasp at each twist and turn and unexpected beheading! (It can be just the teensiest bit gory at times…) I’m Team Daenerys at the moment – well, really I’m Team Arya, but I don’t think she’s going to ascend to the throne of Westeros any time soon. Watch it!

House of Cards (Netflix, season 3 begins February of 2015…probably)

Drew was very excited to watch this one – I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised given how much he loved West Wing. It took me a little longer to get into – I was still overwhelmed from the flurry of Game of Thrones episodes we were coming off of – but once I figured out which middle-aged white dude was which, I was in! So twisty and plotty and good – and quite a few OMG moments which are always fun (I was spoiled for one thing but another thing took me completely by surprise – I definitely did not see that coming!)! Very, very good – can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!

@midnight (Monday-Thursday @ 11:00 CST, Comedy Central)

My next edition of Getting Caught Up will be a podcasts edition – I’ve really gotten into podcasts lately – and I stumbled across this show as a result of my favorite podcast, Doug Loves Movies. In one episode, the host, Doug Benson, mentioned that he was going to be on an episode of @midnight, so I thought I should look into it. It’s sort of a comedy panel game show type thing hosted by Chris Hardwick. Basically he and three comedians riff on various pop culture happenings. It’s funny and features a lot of comedians that we enjoy from other podcasts (it’s a very incestuous group of comedians that we seem to gravitate toward) and is a good way to keep up with Internet goings-on! Squatch what happens! ;)