Thursday, January 26, 2012

Favorite Songs of 2011

Here is my list of favorite songs of the year. As I always say every year, this is entirely subjective. These are just songs that caught me by surprise and stayed in my head for a majority of the year.

25. St. Vincent - "Cruel"

This album was consistently great, and tough to pick a favorite. But this just stood out.

24. Danger Mouse and Daniele Lupi - "Black (Feat. Norah Jones)"

Start keeping count -- this is song number one that I first heard on Breaking Bad.

23. Movits! - "Sammy Davis, Jr."

22. Nicki Minaj - "Super Bass"

Yes. I like Nicki Minaj. Shut up.

21. John Mark McMillan - "Seen a Darkness"

20. Over the Rhine - "Infamous Love Songs"

19. Shad - "The One in Front of the Garage"

18. James Vincent McMorrow - "If I Had a Boat"

17. Champion Leader - "Every Head Bowed and Every Eye Closed"

16. Alexander - "Truth"

Song number two from the past season of Breaking Bad.

15. Beyonce - "Countdown"

14. M83 - "Midnight City"

13. TV On The Radio - "New Cannonball Blues"

12. The Decemberists - "Calamity Song"

11. Ryan Adams - "Chains of Love"

10. Switchfoot - "Vice Verses"

9. The Civil Wars - "Barton Hollow"

There are a couple favorites on this album, but this one really stuck with me.

8. Madeon - "Pop Culture"

This probably shouldn't count, since it's just a remix of over 30 songs. But I just love it. It's fun, different, and another one that's been stuck in my head all year.

7. tUnE-YarDs - "Bizness"

Although typing out their name correctly, this band surprised me in many ways -- one of the biggest is that I actually quite enjoyed it.

6. Fleet Foxes - "Helplessness Blues"

5. Slow Club - "Two Cousins"

4. Typhoon - "The Honest Truth"

3. Feist - "The Bad in Each Other"

2. Bon Iver - "Holocene"

1. The National - "Exile Vilify"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Favorite Television Shows of 2011

Here it goes! My favorite shows of the past year:

10. Parenthood
I'll admit that this show can have it's moments here and there with somewhat silly plotlines, but the payoffs are always perfect. These guys can act,and they're best at it when it counts. Most of the characters are incredibly compelling and very well fleshed out. One question I have -- is there something in the contract about an impromptu family dance scene needing to occur every three or four episodes?
Instant Availability: Netflix and Hulu

9. Raising Hope
Usually I'm turned off to the hick, irreverent approach to life (and in this case, parenting). But there's something about this show -- the quirky, well-defined characters, the common desire to better themselves for this child (but still failing at it), and the occasional guest star Amy Sedaris.
Instant Availability: Netflix and Hulu

8. Modern Family
Although I'm not as swept away by it as I have been in the first and part of the second season, this show continues to keep the sitcom fresh and energetic (although I've been somewhat disappointed by the new season).
Instant Availability: Hulu

7. The Walking Dead
Despite the fact the characters are some of the more frustrating and irritating of the shows on my list (basically, most could die and I wouldn't really care), this still is a very compelling drama. Although only half of season two has aired so far, and major portions of the season were pretty slow, the mid-season finale made amends for everything that had happened before it.
Instant Availability: Netflix (only season 1)

6. 30 Rock
Although still not as funny as it has been in the past, Fey and co. still have what it takes to make a quick and outrageous comedy work well.
Instant Availability: Netflix and Hulu

5. Parks and Recreation
Wow. This show went from something Beth and I never watched earlier in the year to one of our favorites in a span of a few episodes. We were those people that sort of gave up on it after the first season, missing the moment when it really started excelling. Now it's one of my favorite comedies on television.
Instant Availability: Netflilx and Hulu

4. Friday Night Lights
Very few shows feel as real as this one did. Credit is deserved to both the cast and crew, for creating a show that felt at times more like a documentary, like you were actually looking in on these students' lives. It was an impressive feat with such an ensemble cast.
Instant Availability: Netflilx and Hulu

3. Louie
This was, without a doubt, my biggest surprise of the year. Louie is one of the most refreshing shows I've ever seen. Louis C.K. was given the unheard of ability to be in almost complete charge of the television show, and it, well, shows. Although the show typically appears in the "Comedy" genre, Louis takes it in so many directions and a vast range of emotions. You have no idea what's coming with every new sketch. The show is summed up best in an AV Club post:
 "In an age when a lot of television seems stultified and hidebound by convention, Louie is a reminder that innovation is still possible, and it’s always best when tempered by humanity."
Instant Availability: Netflix (only season 1), Hulu (both seasons 1 and 2)

2. Community
I can't think of a show that makes itself more vulnerable -- not only is it refreshingly original and innovative, but I can't think of a sitcom that wears its heart on its sleeve more than this one. It's my favorite comedy on television.
Instant Availability: Hulu

1. Breaking Bad
With season 4, Breaking Bad continues to be on of my favorite shows currently on television. The show is gripping with just the right amounts of humor. The characters are incredibly three-dimensional and intriguing. And as gripping and intense as the show is, nothing about it feels forced. As crazy as things get, it still seems believable. It's because they let the characters dictate the story, not the other way around.

I love this show.

Instant Availability: Netflix (seasons 1-3)

So there it is! What were some of your favorites? Anything I missed?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Weekly Discoveries

// Werner Herzog Has Done It All #1-  "It's Not as Significant Bullet"

// Favorite Remix -

// Favorite Nature Video - I thought it was pretty cool to see it go down once. But what blew my mind is when it did it AGAIN. And again. And again.

// Favorite Parody Trailer - "Shark Song"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Two - Insurrection

Insurrection: To Believe is Human, to Doubt Divine by Peter Rollins

I have to admit -- I am immediately skeptical whenever an author calls themselves "controversial" on the back of their book. I know it's wrong, but I go into the book already pre-judging it.

Luckily, Rollins abated all of my initial pessimism. I rather loved most of the first half of the book where it's basically a primer on Christian Existentialism. It's pretty simple and easy to follow, and I rather enjoyed the logical steps that it took. The book begins with the basic idea that as humans, we have this need to believe in something. That there's more out there than what we can just see.

He argues because belief is so natural, a "belief" in God isn't so important. We're told to embrace the struggles, and the doubts- that those are essential Christianity as well.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed (ironically it's the part that I completely agree with) was what it meant to "believe" or "worship" God. He tries to replace our set of beliefs with actions -- that how we love people here on earth is precisely how we love God. Our role here on earth is not to just believe in something and convince others to believe too, but to bring Heaven to earth.

I'll stop there, but it was a fascinating book. I'm still turned off by the "controversial" label, but I'll definitely be keeping up with Rollins from time to time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Reading Resolution

This post is inspired from Arleen. Like her, I love reading, but this last year has been a bit disappointing in taking a chunk out of all that's on my list.

I'm hoping to reverse that trend this year.

I'll share the books I'm reading here, and hopefully that will keep me somewhat accountable.

The first book that I've read so far this year (or more accurately, finished, since I spent a couple months of '11 reading it as well) was George R.R. Martin's first book in his "Song of Ice and Fire" series. You probably recognize that it's A Game of Thrones. Not only is it already massively popular (I think it was first released in the mid-nineties), but it's also become a very successful television show on HBO.

I won't give too much detail, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Although I'm a fan of the fantasy genre, I don't really care to read too much of it. This book is basically Tolkien minus some of the fantasy plus a medieval time period. It's also lacking the black and white moral absolutes of Tolkien's masterpiece. While that's not necessarily a good or bad thing, it makes for a very interesting drama involving vast kingdoms who are all vying for power, and all think they're the ones who deserve it (for the most part).

More than that, however, these power struggles are told through several personal narratives, and a majority of them are very interesting and deeply compelling.

I encourage you to check this one out. It's a good 800+ pages, so it's a commitment for sure. I'm not yet going to start on the second of the series, but I plan to soon.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Weekly Discoveries

// Harrison Ford Watches Indiana Jones for the First Time -

// Favorite Short -

BEARD PUNCH from Zak Stoltz on Vimeo.

// Favorite Late-Night Clip -

// Favorite Time-Lapse -

Москва'2011(Moscow/Russia) from zweizwei |motion timelapse| on Vimeo.

// Favorite Meme Video -

// Favorite Parody Ad -

// Favorite Rube Goldberg -

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Weekly Discoveries

// Favorite Film Trailer - This one comes from the guys who brought you Wallace and Gromit. So yeah, it's probably going to be pretty good.

// Favorite "I Can't Believe I Haven't Seen This Yet" Video -

// Favorite Nature Video -

// Favorite Song - Another Lana Del Rey, this time it's "Off to the Races"