Friday, November 22, 2013

November Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for November...

1. Season 4 of The Walking Dead started last month, and so far it's been worth the wait. Things seem to be humming along at the prison, but of course that only lasts so long as they start being sabotaged from within on several fronts. I'm not sure how much to share since the season is still going on, so I'll just say that there's something about this season that was missing from the last one. There's an element of terror that has returned, where the main enemies aren't other humans, at least not yet. This past Sunday's episode, where we begin catching up with what has happened to The Governor, was one of the most intriguing of the season so far, and it looks like we'll get to see more this week.

2. A couple years ago, Allie Brosh of the hilarious blog Hyperbole and a Half announced that she was putting out a book based on her writings and cartoons: about half stuff we've seen and half stuff we haven't. Unfortunately, the timeline for the release seemed to be delayed by life (she's explained her struggle with depression in several posts in a humorous yet powerful way). Well, at the very end of October, her book finally released. It really is her blog in book form, but the material translates well. Some of her best stuff is included: her two posts on depression, being an adult (ALL THE THINGS), her stupid dog, and eating her grandfather's entire birthday cake, for instance. It was worth the wait. Now we can laugh at a book AND a blog.

3. Last night, an old friend and I saw Five Iron Frenzy in concert. If you told me even a few years ago that I'd get another chance to see them live, let alone hear them play songs from a new album of material, I'd have laughed. And yet there I was. The venue was incredibly intimate, so we were nice and close to the stage. They played a pretty decent cross section of stuff from their albums, including "Blue Comb '78," "At Least I'm Not Like All Those Other Old Guys," "Oh, Canada," "You Probably Shouldn't Move Here," and "You Can't Handle This," along with some new tunes from Engine of a Million Plots, which comes out this Tuesday. Afterwards, the band hung out, danced, mugged for pictures, and was incredibly playful and personable. The whole thing was awesome from beginning to end.

4. We finally got to watch Joss Whedon's version of Much Ado About Nothing, starring Amy Acker as Beatrice, Alexis Denisof as Benedick, and a whole host of other Whedon favorites in assorted roles. This modern adaptation takes place at a large house on sprawling grounds, the characters in simple, yet affluent attire, and it's shot in black and white, which gives everything a certain noir feel. There's a lot of visual comedy that complements or helps express the humor of the dialogue: the smallest facial expression helps elevate what's being said, and the cast has proven very well over the years how talented and capable they are at this. This was a wonderful, simplified production of one of Shakespeare's better-known tales.

5. I've taken to binge-watching Parks and Recreation when I'm home watching Coffeedaughter. It's one of the many shows I've always meant to check out, and this has given me a good chance to do so. Amy Poehler plays Leslie with the right amount of earnestness in this mockumentary about a parks and recreation department in a small Indiana town. The rest of the cast is equally quirky, including Nick Offerman as Leslie's boss who hates government, Aziz Ansari as Leslie's big-talking assistant, and Rashida Jones as Leslie's friend. I love the one-camera sitcom style, and the mockumentary format easily lends itself to that. I'm almost done with season 2, and may even be into season 3 by the time I post this.