Friday, November 30, 2012

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished Boneshaker this week, which means I can now move on to the next book in the series. From what I can tell, the series isn't a bunch of sequels so much as a collection of stories that happen in the same universe. I like that. I look forward to reading more.

We watched The Avengers the other week, the movie that many other movies have been building toward for years. Thor's brother Loki is conspiring to bring an army from another world to start a war on earth, so Nick Fury has to gather his newly formed team to stop him. The film was written and directed by Joss Whedon, so they couldn't go wrong on that front. Besides that, the effects were good and the actors had good didn't seem like it was a bunch of stars thrown together to make a summer blockbuster. At its heart it is a big silly action movie; with so many characters there isn't a whole lot of time to delve into subplots too deeply. The closest we get is Bruce Banner's hesitancy to become the Hulk, as well as a little about Black Widow's past as an assassin. The larger story is whether this diverse group is able to work together to defeat a common enemy. And of course one has to keep watching during and after the credits for some additional stuff. Again, it was well-balanced given the number of characters, and Whedon's humor and direction was quite evident in places.

We also watched Brave this past week, where Merida, a Scottish princess, is more comfortable shooting arrows than following the etiquette of her position, much to the chagrin of her mother. She sets out to change her fate, which brings unintended and unexpected consequences. This had a different feel than most other Pixar films, perhaps mostly because it was a period piece and not focused on some aspect of modern culture that we don't think about until Pixar makes a movie about it. The story is not just about Merida's personal desire to change her life's arc, but also her unique and complicated relationship with her mother, which is linked to the former anyway. Ultimately the story seems to be about how one's fate is not shaped individually, but also by the community who raised you for better or worse.

"We've been on the road for 18 hours. I need a bath, some chow and then you and me sit down and we talk about who dies." Boardwalk Empire, you win television this week. Awesome.

I also found this to be awesome in a guilty pleasure sort of way:

And here are some ducks being blown around by the wind:


Of Monsters and Men, My Head Is An Animal - Coffeewife downloaded this album onto our iTunes probably a year or so ago. I even had it on my iPod for that long, but never listened to it. I have heard "Little Talks" before, but didn't take the time to hear the whole thing. Of Monsters and Men reminds me a lot of The Decemberists: not the same kind of storytelling, but certainly a similar sound complete with accordion, except their songs are a little more anthemic than what The Decemberists produce. In that vein, they also remind me of Mumford and Sons.

Professor Elemental, Father of Invention - This album didn't strike me in the same way that The Indifference Engine did, which made me worry that he was just a novelty for me that I'd already gotten over. But I don't think that's the case. I'm guessing another listen will help me with that.

The Cog is Dead, Steam Powered Stories - Hey, another steampunk band! At this point, I doubt you're very shocked. The Cog is Dead's sound is incredibly eclectic, borrowing from folk, ragtime, and 1950s rock n' roll, among so many others. This album is exactly what the title suggests: stories related to the band's travels through time. This genre is so fun.

Over the Rhine, Snow Angels - To my shame, I've never listened to Over the Rhine's Christmas album before this past week. It seemed to be as good a time as any to fix that. While I listened, I imagined myself in a smoky downstairs club on December 27th nursing a Manhattan among a half dozen other patrons. There's a modest Christmas tree in the corner, its lights somewhat distorted through the haze as Karin Bergquist's breathy voice consoles us all in each of our unnamed holiday disappointments. Of course, this is obviously taking place somewhere other than Ohio, where smoking is no longer allowed in public places, and Coffeewife is probably wondering where I am. So I can't stay long. Sorry. In the meantime, I bum a cigarette off the guy next to me while I half-heartedly watch some meaningless bowl game on the TV above the bar. Merry freaking Christmas, indeed. Well, there's always the music, right? At least we have that. Cheers, my new friends.

Ludo, Prepare the Preparations - My cousin recommended this band to me the other day. This St. Louis band features high-energy pop/rock that reminds me of Relient K, save with some synth elements thrown in. The lyrics have a They Might Be Giants weirdness to them, which I thought was fun, too. "Too Tired to Wink" and "Anything For You" were a couple favorites.