October 9, 2012 by Daniel
1. Unrelated to any of my current lists (though it undoubtedly would have made it on had I missed it), I saw Looper earlier today, and that movie is jaw-droppingly incredible. With no hyperbole intended, I think it just might be the Terminator 2 of my generation; that is, an epic thriller that offers some surprisingly thoughtful ruminations on the concept of “destiny”, while shoveling in enough well-developed characters, high-minded science fiction ideas, and moments of bad-assery to please just about anyone. See it, if you haven’t yet.
2. I’ve been playing through Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time on PC, and I’m nearly done. I had rented this game when came out, got a few hours into it and stopped. But even nearly ten years later, that game’s actually really good! The development of the Prince throughout the game and the central relationship between him and his partner Farah is really well-illustrated and the game has a cohesion of theme that still isn’t seen in most video games. By which I mean that what the game is “about” – regret and the desire we often feel to play out past events of our lives in better ways – is felt in everything that the game has to offer – the plot, the framing device of the narrative, the gameplay mechanics, and so on. It’s pretty incredible, actually, especially when you consider that all of this probably came from a practical solution to a gameplay problem: how can we make the challenging, speedy platforming fun, when the kind of game we want to make means that the player will probably die pretty constantly? Simple: allow them to turn back time in short increments. It’s a brilliant and elegant solution and it informs every part of the game. It’s not perfect by any means – the combat is lame and frustrating, with encounters that last much too long and have no sense of dynamic, certain fixed camera switches can totally mess up navigation at points, and the controls can sometimes be just a wee bit too touchy – but it still holds up really well. I suspect I’ll be playing the sequels at some point, though the inclusion of Godsmack in The Warrior Within makes me rather skeptical about it.
3. Halfway through Midnight’s Children and it’s finally getting into the real meat of it’s story, with Saleem discovering his crazy powers and discovering the other midnight’s children. It’s nice to see the story picking up a bit, and the mythical aspects are very much welcome. It’s really interesting that it takes Rushdie about half of the book to set up the main character’s story – since the first half shows us, in detail the, lives of his parents and grandparents, we have a really good sense of those characters in the second half. It’s central to the theme of the book – that within every person’s individual story is also the story of every member of their family, and in the case of Saleem, the story of India itself. Pretty fascinating stuff.
4. I’ve finished the second season of Archer, which was obviously great, and I think I’m going to take a break before I delve into the recently-wrapped third season. This is more because of myself than the show – whenever I get really into a tv show, I get totally addicted to it and it ruins my productivity. So, I’m restricting my shows a bit in order to finish other things.
5. Though that being said, I actually picked up an old show of mine again after an extended hiatus – Parks and Recreation. I only stopped watching that show for…reasons that are kind of shady, but hey, gotta be honest when you blog right? See, I was a bit more than halfway through the fourth season when MegaUpload got shut down, causing a massive loss in the ability to stream shows illegally. And so, I just couldn’t find anywhere to watch it anymore – I’ve since rectified this and I spent a large portion of Sunday catching up on it. I adore that show – I know it looks like The Office but it’s totally different. In fact, it’s the show that The Office wants to be. Around the third or fourth season of that show, the writers started to distance themselves from the awkward humour of the original British version, making the oddball characters a bit more likable and trying to transition the show over to a feel-good comedy where Michael Scott isn’t a bastard, he’s just a well-meaning but kind of infantile man. This change in tone worked for seasons three and four, but it really started to wear on the show starting with it’s fifth season, making it mostly just boring. But with Parks and Rec, it always works – the characters make no bones about being very close friends with each other and you can feel that sense of camaraderie at all times, even when April is being cold like usual, or everyone is scumming out Jerry. This reached a head in the fourth season with the primary plot of all the characters banding together to get Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope elected for City Council, and it was really effective – heartfelt, and touching while losing none of the show’s good-natured humour. The episode of The Office where Michael leaves, with all the characters crying and telling him how great of a boss he was, seems entirely disingenuous by comparison.
6. I listened to Pink Flag by Wire. I’m keeping my opinions on that for a later piece, but if you have any love of punk music or want to listen to an album that caused ripples throughout rock music that are felt to this very day, you’d do well to check it out.
7. Go buy comedian Tig Notaro’s newest album Live, which is available on Louis CK’s website for only five bucks right now. It’s a landmark moment in stand-up comedy and we’re incredibly fortunate that it was documented. The background goes like this – Tig’s career was going really well, but then she had a six-month streak of terrible luck, getting pneumonia, then a life-threatening bacterial infection, then getting broken-up with, then having her mother die unexpectedly. And THEN, a few days before the set, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer – in both breasts. So, on this fateful night, Tig decided to eschew her usual routine and perform a half-hour of mostly off-the-cuff comedy about all the bad stuff that happened to her in the past few months. I don’t need to tell you that it’s heart-wrenching material, but Tig is such a great comedian that it still manages to be pretty funny and oddly life-affirming, and it speaks on the power of comedy as a coping mechanism. Seriously, you should buy it.