June 30, 2011

181: Won't back down

She may not have won The Voice last night (and congrats to Javier Colon, who is an astonishing singer and whose win is well-deserved), but Dia Frampton will always be first in my heart among Voice contestants.  The song she sang in the finals, "Inventing Shadows," was all right, but the real highlight of the final two episodes was watching her duet with her coach, Blake Shelton, and with Miranda Lambert.  (How cool is that Blues Brothers-esque staging for "I Won't Back Down"?)

I don't really like country music, but I loved that.

June 29, 2011

180: Joyeux anniversaire

Sometimes you just want to make a five-second video instead of sending a card to Europe.

(First video I've shot on the iPod touch.  I'd say it turned out pretty well!)

June 28, 2011

179: Cruelty, thy name is unemployment

This was my facial expression at lunchtime today.
Rather unexpectedly, the higher-ups decided the project I was working on at my temp job (which was going along in fits and starts from the get-go) was over, and most of us who had been working on it were thanked for our time and sent home at lunchtime with a full day's pay as severance.  So...I guess I've got a lot more free time now.  On the bright side, I'm reasonably certain that if I still don't have a full-time job or am not in some kind of academic program, I'll be invited back next spring.  Until then, it's time to get my ass in gear and update my Etsy shop.

Temping, she is a fickle bitch.

June 27, 2011

178: Dead or alive

Sometimes you just run across a photo that you really, really like.  This is one of them:
via We Heart It
I'm not sure if this is part of someone's engagement shoot, or what, but it's a really great, well-composed photo.  Kudos, uncredited photog.

June 26, 2011

177: Bad things

via We Heart It
The new season of True Blood premieres tonight, and I am STOKED.  (Even though I'll have to wait until tomorrow or later to watch it on someone else's Tivo.)  Having read the book on which this season will be based, I expect some very, very fun times with Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard).  The great thing about the series is that they depart from the books when it comes to the lives of secondary and tertiary characters, so even those of us who have read Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series can look forward to being surprised every now and then.  With Mad Men off the air this year, True Blood is my favorite summer series on television.

June 25, 2011

176: Who wants to fight?!

Finally saw Midnight in Paris with my friend E tonight.  Utterly charming, witty, and a lovely tour of the streets of Paris.  Also, guess who played Ernest Hemingway?

Yes, hello, Corey Stoll, AKA Det. Jaruszalski from Law & Order: LA.  As though I needed another reason to be deeply fond of him.  He was fantastic as Hemingway (and really ought to get a side gig reading audiobooks), and I also enjoyed Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali (crazy eyes and all) really stole the show.  When it hits the second-run theater, I might see it again with my mother.

Definite recommend.

June 24, 2011

175: Changing winds

The coming storm
Paris, France, 2007.
More from my time abroad in 2007.  Today, storms moving into Paris frame the Eiffel Tower.  It was a lucky shot in a photogenic city.

June 23, 2011

174: Dear diary

Dear diary
Montpellier, France, 2007.
Travel journal from my trip abroad in college, days before I wrote the truly hilarious (in retrospect) entry about hiking the Cévennes with a dozen college students and two donkeys.  True story.

June 22, 2011

173: I don't speak Italian.

via We Heart It
Humpday movie: Inglourious Basterds.  I liked it, but didn't love it, the first time I saw it.  Recently, I got an itch to see it again, and discovered that Eli Roth creeps me out even more the second time around.  However, Mélanie Laurent is fantastic, and Brad Pitt's accent is even more ridiculous this time, which I love.

Still, though, I'll take Reservoir Dogs over the Basterds any day.  Sorry, guys.

June 21, 2011

172: The Voice

I don't usually watch a lot of reality TV, but summer television is an utter wasteland, so I usually end up catching most of the America's Got Talent auditions.  This summer, though, I've made an effort to see The Voice.  The blind auditions were the best part, but the performances have been consistently good, and we've gotten to see the lovely Dia Frampton come into her own.  If you haven't seen or heard it yet, check out Dia's rendition of Kanye West's "Heartless":

And the awesome Beverly McClellan:

And Vicci Martinez (who expects that huge voice coming out of that tiny woman?).  She did "The Dog Days Are Over" tonight and it was kickass, but until that video goes up tomorrow, here's her last performance, Dolly Parton's "Jolene":

Not to mention the fact that it gives some prominent music stars the chance to prove they know what their stuff; during the blind auditions, Christina Aguilera made some surprisingly astute and fairly technical observations about the singers' voices.  She doesn't sound nearly as intelligent during the live shows, when they can't edit out all of her excess chatter, but all four celebrity coaches (Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton) seem like they're giving their artists helpful pointers and pushing them to move out of their comfort zones.

All things considered, it's good, clean summer entertainment.  The finals are next week, so I'll probably be browsing the full run of episodes on Hulu beforehand, just to make my picks for the top four.

June 20, 2011

171: Bookworm

I am a loyal patron of my local library, but occasionally my borrowing gets out of control.  I'm trying to beat the clock on a pair of library e-books (The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber and Bloodshot by Cherie Priest) and a stack of actual paper books (Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins at the moment, and Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan of Go Fug Yourself is up next).  There's a couple folks at work with whom I swap titles, which is how I end up with eight books on hold and not enough time in 21 days to read them all.  What are you reading, Blog Visitor?

June 19, 2011

170: Sunday success

Not only did I get writing done in spite of myself and my household, but I also solved a gift-giving dilemma I'd had for a weeks.  So my day can basically be summed up in the following GIFs:
(via FYCB)
(.gif of unknown origin)

(via FYLL)
And now we'll be having a veritable Chinese food feast for Father's Day as soon as my uncle's family gets here.  Sunday: win.

June 18, 2011

169: Favorites XXI, or Saturday Morning Movies

Sometimes, I watch action movies on Saturday mornings.  Just, you know, to start the day off with some explosions.  Some favorites from my DVD collection:

The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum
 I watched Ultimatum this morning, just to relive 1) Bourne beating a guy with a textbook and 2) Bourne calling a CIA deputy chief from the guy's own office.  I like the trilogy because Bourne is an intelligent antihero with all kinds of creative ways of getting rid of henchmen -- putting a magazine in a toaster as time-delayed ignition for a gas leak (although the Mythbusters disproved the plausibility of that), beating an assassin with a magazine and a ballpoint pen, etc. -- because there are all kinds of crazy car chases, and the initial shock of Matt Damon being a serious action star?  Priceless.

Batman Begins
Before we all found out that Christian Bale is a little bit crazy, he busted out that ridiculous Batman voice in the franchise reboot.  I love a good origin story, and while The Dark Knight may have been even better, I go back to this one more often (and not just because I never actually got the sequel on DVD...) just to watch Bruce Wayne pull together all the elements of his secret identity.  Also, there are some genuinely funny moments, usually involving Alfred (Michael Caine!) or Lucius Fox (President God Morgan Freeman).  Fast-forward through all the parts with Katie Holmes and it's an extremely enjoyable substitute for Saturday morning cartoons.

Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace
What I said about origin stories goes double for Daniel Craig's two outings as 007.  Sure, I didn't know if I could get behind Blond Bond when Craig was cast, but he makes a great rough-around-the-edges James Bond, and I completely buy that this guy turns into a super-smooth secret agent later on in his career.  Even between Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, you see the slightest bit of growth for Bond, even though he's still messier than a covert operative ought to be and he's well on his way to being the disgusting womanizer that we all know and cherish.

Star Trek
Sure, there's plenty of action, but it's really just about the scene where Kirk's hands puff up like balloons and he runs around with a numb tongue.

The Incredibles
I'll go out on a limb and call this one the best superhero movie in years.  Fun, exciting, and animated, so the laws of physics need not be taken into consideration, and it's okay if Elastigirl's stretching looks cartoonish.  Because it's, you know, a cartoon.  Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter are the perfect voices for the retired superheroes, and Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone is just a bonus.  It may not be as universally beloved as Up and Finding Nemo, but it's one of my favorites.

June 17, 2011

168: Blerg.

Nursed a migraine all afternoon.  Nothing even remotely witty or coherent to say.  Blech.


June 16, 2011

167: Sync

This is pretty darn cool:

June 15, 2011

166: Cheesecake coma

I'm about to pass out from cheesecake, having eaten with friends from high school at Cheesecake Factory tonight.  So I'll just toss up this video, which I described to them during the obligatory YouTube-recommendation part of the evening, and call it a night.  I've got a couple thousand math papers to score tomorrow before my three-day weekend.

June 14, 2011

165: Elfin

Nobody Home
Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, 2006.
It's summer, so the Lake Harriet elf ought to be in residence.  I haven't made it to the lakes yet this year, but I hope to have enough time some weekend to bike around the Chain of Lakes.

In unrelated griping, how can sitting at a computer for 8 hours be so exhausting?  It's only Tuesday and I'm about ready to sleep for a week, and I just signed up for the reader pool for more test scoring in July.

June 13, 2011

164: Punny

I feel slightly awful about laughing aloud at this.  It's so dumb!  And yet I chuckle!

June 12, 2011

163: Spotlight

In the spotlight
Muse, State Theater, Minneapolis, 2006.
It's been ages since I've been to a live show.  This is Muse at the State Theater in 2006, in the days before they were Stephenie Meyer's Favorite Band and Matthew Bellamy impregnated Kate Hudson.  Say what you will about 'em, they do put on a good show.

June 11, 2011

162: Favorites XX

Summer!  The sun stays up later than I do (...okay, not really), I get to subject the neighbors to my pasty legs whenever I mow the lawn, and we all get to enjoy the things that only come around during the summer months.

This week, my favorite summer guilty pleasures (and yes, a lot of them are on TV):

Reality TV
No, not The Bachelorette or Has Anyone Heard from the Kardashians Lately? or Teen Mom or whatever other horror shows are on MTV.  I admit it: I really enjoy America's Got Talent.  Mostly, I love Sharon Osbourne's hysterical laughter, usually at the expense of her fellow judges, but there's also the rare moment where someone genuinely talented turns up and blows everyone away.  There's also The Voice, where even Christina Aguilera's increasingly depressing personal style (seriously, girl, you cannot go on national television with a streaky spray tan...it's just sad) can't take away from some great performances and aspiring singers getting what seems like genuine mentoring from successful artists.  Rebecca Loebe and Devon Barley's duet/battle on Radiohead's "Creep" was fantastic:
Of course, I've also started watching Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, which is not so much light entertainment as motivation to keep exercising, even when it's muggy and awful outside.

Romance novels
Admittedly, I read them year-round, but I save the truly fluffy, downright embarrassing stuff for summer.  Even though some of it is terrible, and some of it reads like thinly-veiled fanfiction, it's really the best read-in-the-hammock genre.  So thanks to my college roommate, Jess, for introducing me to books by Jennifer Crusie, who was my gateway author.  It's been a downward spiral ever since.  Thank goodness for ebooks from the library.  No one knows your shame when it's hidden on an e-reader.

Vampires, werewolves, and telepaths
Specifically, the ones in and around fictional Bon Temps, Louisiana, where True Blood takes place.  Based on Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series (see also: romance novels, above), it's that patented HBO blend of sex, violence, and cussing, with a healthy dose of humor and mystery to boot.  Yes, I sometimes want to reach through the television and smack all the surviving members of the Stackhouse family upside the head, but there are some great subplots and supporting characters (Hoyt and Jessica, Terry Bellefleur and his pet armadillo) that make even the most annoying of Jason Stackhouse's exploits bearable.  Thank goodness for friends with premium channels.  Given the choice, I will pick this vampire story over Edward and Bella any day of the week.  (Also, I would put money on Eric Northman ripping Edward Cullen to sparkly bits in a cage match, but that's a whole different issue.)

Covert Affairs
USA Network's spy show (available on their website for those of us without cable) is both really awful and strangely appealing.  The writing comes right up to the point of being good before making an abrupt U-turn into hokey territory.  Piper Perabo plays Annie Walker, a CIA agent who is essentially a Mary Sue, but I keep coming back.  I don't know why, but I suspect it has something to do with how much I love action movies, and this show is nothing if not an extremely low-budget, forty-minute action movie.  Apparently I'm willing to put up with stunning mediocrity for the occasional gunfight or explosion.  I'm hoping for less preoccupation with Annie's rogue-spy boyfriend/ex-boyfriend and more hanging out and beer-drinking with her tech ops buddy, Auggie.  In addition to the exotic foreign gunfights and terrible dialogue, of course.

June 10, 2011

161: Random photo Friday

The light directly above my head at work makes a persistent, high-pitched sound all day.  I suspect no one else notices it because I'm the only one still young enough to hear that frequency.  Therefore, I've had a headache since lunchtime.  In the words of Liz Lemon, blerg.  Here's hoping for a better weekend.

Have some random photos that make me happy (click for We Heart It pages):

June 9, 2011

160: Like, nine feet tall?

Today's entertainment: possibly the greatest story ever told, Criminal Minds star Matthew Gray Gubler's NYC anecdote will live in my Youtube favorites forever.  My favorite thing about this video, from a Paley Center panel, is that every time I watch it, I notice something new.  This time, it was Paget Brewster (and her amazing, perfect bangs) hanging on Gubler's every word.  Beware some profanity and prepare to be entertained.

June 8, 2011

159: Lizzy

When I first saw the Joe Wright-directed Pride & Prejudice, there was only one thing I really wanted.

That coat.

I'm re-reading Austenland by Shannon Hale during breaks at work, and all I can picture is the heroine in this (anachronistic, but totally awesome) coat.  Incidentally, I recommend the book for Austen fans or anyone who's ever worn out the section of the VHS or DVD where Colin Firth wanders around in a wet shirt.  It's very, very funny.

June 7, 2011

158: Hot air

Tatooine, via We Heart It.
It's 102 degrees in the Twin Cities right now, down a degree from the day's high temperature.  Apparently pavement has been buckling all over I-94.  It's also super-windy, and the wind is, if anything, hotter than the air temperature alone.  On my drive home from work, it was actually cooler inside the car when the wind wasn't gusting through the open windows.  I have no desire to do anything but sit here in the basement and enjoy the air conditioning.  Ai-ya.

June 6, 2011

157: Un beau chapeau

Now is about the time of year I start wishing I could wear hats well.

But the fact of the matter is that the combined circumference of my skull and hair is bigger than most hats sold for women.

I'm almost always disappointed when I pick up a nice hat and try to plop it on my head, but it fails to even hit my ears.

And the hats that do fit are the ones that are kind of impractical for everyday wear.  I mean, when was the last time you tried to wear a bowler hat to the office full of casually-dressed middle-aged coworkers?

These are what we call First World Problems.

(Photos via We Heart It.  Click for individual pages.)

June 5, 2011

156: Teaser

It is going to be one long-ass summer.

June 4, 2011

155: Favorites XIX

Favorite TV one-season wonders, or "oh, look, she's getting verbose about Law & Order: LA again":

I wonder if Fox ever rues the day it canceled Joss Whedon's sci-fi/western dramedy starring a whole host of actors now on other successful shows (e.g. Nathan Fillion, Morena Baccarin, and Adam Baldwin) and featuring a couple of memorable guest appearances by Christina Hendricks (Mad Men's Joan Holloway/Harris).  I -- like most of America, apparently -- didn't watch the series when it was originally on the air, but discovered it through IMDB's streaming video and Netflix.  And thank goodness I did, because it's the perfect blend of two niche genres, offers a bit of steampunk appeal, and created a cast of likable, flawed characters.  Firefly painted a picture of a future that is both amusing and dangerous -- Star Trek it is not.  And, naturally, everyone curses in Mandarin.  It's really a shame the network couldn't see fit to give the show a second chance (and chose to air some of the episodes out of order), but they did make Serenity, the feature-film sequel to the series that helped cap off the story...though how satisfying an end it was is debatable.

Freaks & Geeks
Judd Apatow's high school comedy was set in 1980, featured some true-to-life awkward-looking teens, cameos from Jason Schwartzman and a couple Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni, and a cast that has been ridiculously successful in the years since the show's premature cancellation.  Sure, some of the gags were so painfully awkward that I couldn't actually watch them (but I have a low threshold for secondhand embarrassment) and the period setting turned some people off (who really wants to relive the early '80s?), but taken as a whole, it was a fantastic show.  These are characters you can relate to, or who remind you just how happy you are to be out of high school (or both).  And Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" was its theme song!  Maybe network TV wasn't the right home for the series; Apatow's college-set follow-up, Undeclared, aired on MTV...and was also canceled after one season.  So I'm not sure where either of these shows belonged.  At least we'll always have DVD.

This show was great...in theory.  An allegory for the Biblical David and Goliath story, set in a 21st-century kingdom that resembled a slick, modern political machine more than anything else, it was supposed to blend the stories of a soldier-turned-war-hero thrust into the lion's den of the royal machine.  Unfortunately, the show was nowhere near allusive enough -- the protagonist's name was David, and he became a national hero for blowing up the enemy's "Goliath" armored tank.  The names of characters and settings were lifted directly from the Bible with only minimal changes made (e.g. King Saul becomes King Silas).  The series should have worked.  It had IAN MCSHANE, for cryin' out loud.  IAN MCSHANE, gnawing the scenery at every turn!  Of course, I thought the character of David was too much of a goody-two-shoes to be truly likable, but I enjoyed almost everyone else, and I kept coming back because I was interested in the universe the show created.  I would have been interested to see what they would have done with a second season, but it wasn't meant to be.

Law & Order: Los Angeles
I've talked about LOLA on this blog before, and I'm still disappointed that it's been canceled after a single tumultuous season.  Sure, Terrence Howard can be about as engaging as a sheet of plywood, and the long hiatus during which the show was tweaked to the very edge of believability hurt the ratings, but with the addition of Alana de la Garza and (what seemed like) more screen time for Alfred Molina, I think the show still had a lot of life left in it.  But, like the two previous series on this list, LOLA was a victim of the NBC hatchet.  The writing was often hit-or-miss, and viewers may have found it difficult to connect with some of the lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous crimes, but I always found the first half of the show entertaining.  When the case was handed over to the prosecutors was usually when the show lost momentum, in my opinion.  If one good thing came from this series, it was the introduction of Corey Stoll to a primetime audience.  Stoll is a fantastic actor who made his character (Det. TJ Jaruszalski, or just Baldy, if you're my mother) likable, believable, and reliably entertaining from the first episode to the last.  Even the dubious subplot in which TJ goes to Mexico to hunt down the drug lord who killed his partner was tolerable, just because I'm so deeply fond of Corey Stoll.  And here's where I heave a big sigh and say RIP, LOLA.  I'm sure there are literally dozens of us who will miss you.

(click photos for sources.)

June 3, 2011

154: Get out of the kitchen

Como Park Zoo, St. Paul, 2007.

I probably felt about the same way this polar bear (either Neil or Buzz) did today.  Almost 90 degrees and humid -- but finally a good excuse to wear shorts without getting weird looks from the employees at the auto shop (what, guys? it was 75! get over it and rotate the tires).  The humidity did get a little ridiculous in the middle of the afternoon, but I'll take it.  It's better than yet another inch of snow, anyway.

June 2, 2011

153: Slow and Steady

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, St. Paul, 2006.

Toby the Tortoise here lives at the Como Zoo, and you can visit him the next time you're in St. Paul for the princely sum of $0.  (But they'll certainly take donations.)

June 1, 2011

152: [insert caption]

I'm in the middle of trying to cobble together the scribbled phrases and Notes-app entries I made over the past few weeks, so I'll just leave this here for us all to giggle about in our own time:
The Obamas at a dinner at the U.S. Ambassador's home in London.
(via We Heart It)