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My Obsession

**Hey folks, brief intro from Scott first. This is our very first post from Lauren, a new contributor to Roused to Mediocrity. She’s awesome, and she likes awesome things, so enjoy getting to know her! She also has the honor of being our first lady contributor, so she can share her nerd girl love with us all.**

So, if you know me well, you know there are a plethora of things I love, including coffee,art,candy etc etc. If you don’t know me, well you’re gonna get to know me, and me equals geeky ūüėČ

There happens to be something I am, what some might call, obsessed with; one of the greatest TV shows to ever air, and that is : “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Call me a nerd, a geek whatever you’d like, it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. The minute that show aired in ’97, it sunk it’s teeth into me and hasn’t let go.

I don’t always know how to explain just how I feel about the¬†show to people who don’t watch. But here it goes.
I had originally loved the movie, mostly because I was an 11 year old girl who loved anything to do with vampires, and Luke Perry.
So when I got older and heard news about this being turned into a prime time television show, I was more than pumped. A TV show with kids my age? and vampires? sign me up. It had everything I was looking for in a show, horror, drama and comedy, and it delivered, and I’ve been in love ever since. I have all the seasons, not to mention memorabilia and behind the scenes crapola. I even make it a point to at least watch one full season a year if not more. I might even go crazy and start from the very beginning to the very end.

But, monsters, vampires and demons aside, the show’s cast really spoke to me. I grew up with them and they grew up with me. Everything they went through, minus the vampire slaying & turning evil thing, I went through, or a friend did. I saw myself in each one of these characters, just a little bit, and that was cool. I didn’t identify with many people in high school or anyone on TV for that matter, so this was cool to escape to on a weekly basis. I dreaded it the day it would all end and still miss that show 8 years later, and often wonder if there will ever be a show that I will ever love that much. I know it’s just a TV show, but it was more to me than that.

Now as an adult, entering my 30’s, (Buffy and I both turn 30 this year, blech!) I’d have to say I’m an even bigger fan than I had been as a teenager, and in fact, went out of my way to go to a “Buffy Fest Convention” here in Boston. I, along with my two cousins, my best friend and her sister, got to have a Dinner/Meet and Greet with Nicholas Brendon (Xander), and then go to the convention the next day to see him again, and James Marsters (Spike), and sit in on a Q & A with Clare Kramer (Glory) and Mercedes McNab (Harmony). It was kind of a big deal, and I got the pictures to prove it. It’s an experience I will never forget and geekily hope to do again ūüôā

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My Favorite Books I Read in 2010 (aka, I didn't read enough last year)

Scott is a machine when it comes to consuming media of different types. And I don’t mean mindlessly consuming media like some idiot who watches primetime CBS. He consumes, and critiques. He delves into it … looking through a pair of finely tuned lenses. You all have seen the brilliant stuff he’s written on here about everything from Kanye to China¬†Mi√©ville, and many things in between … why am I saying all of this??? Well, for one, to kiss his ass because I don’t have a non-music list up yet, but the other reason is to comment on my own lack of consumption … especially when it comes to books.

Last year, I read maybe ten books. Maybe more. But not many more. Luckily, because I live with such well read, lovely people, the quality of these books was high to quite high.

So, here they are, my three favorite books I read in 2010 … (apologies for overlap with Scott’s list)

1. The Book ThiefMarkus Zusak


I suppose in some twisted way, it makes sense that a book that is so painfully human is narrated by Death.

Like Scott, I wept and sobbed tears of the bittersweet variety over the last thirty pages or so. The way Zusak employs the theme of duality, both of people and of words, is breathtaking. The book is so filled to the brim with truth. In the end, when I did find myself sobbing at the pages, it wasn’t so much because of tragedy, but because the hope was so overwhelming in the midst of tragedy. Read this book!

2. No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy


I read four of McCarthy’s works last year: the above mentioned No Country …, The Road, Blood Meridian, and a play called “The Stonemason”. Each word, each paragraph, page, chapter; each book I read, further cemented Mr. McCarthy as one of my favorite authors. To be honest, the choice of No Country was completely¬†arbitrary. Any of his works could be on my list. Scott already spoke of the sparse writing style McCarthy uses in The Road, and it is no different in No Country. Most of us have probably seen the Brothers Coen adaptation on the silver screen. Yes, they are brilliant filmmakers, and it certainly helps when the story you are adapting is so perfectly written. Chigurh’s menacing, stoic demeanor jumps off each page. The tension is perfectly built. McCarthy wrote one of the most terrifying villians in literature in the character of Anton Chigurh.

3. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers

I have already written about this book a bit here. But I want to reiterate a few things.

You know when you read something, watch something, see something that so intensely resonates with your soul that you cannot shake it for weeks, even months? That was this book for me.

It’s a book about searching. A book about learning and understanding yourself. The struggle to be understood by your peers. This is what I got from it, ultimately: we are all very different. We come from different places, backgrounds, experiences. We may never see eye to eye on certain things. We may never resolve differences that may exist between us, but when it comes down to it, we are all people. We are all lonely at one time or another. And maybe it is that longing that will always bring people together despite their differences. Maybe I missed a point that was devoid of hope … but I’ll stick with hope.

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and i just can't hide it: the movies of 2011 i'm most excited for. [the first list of 2011.]

Here is one of my favorite lists, the movies of 2011 I’m most excited for.

Granted, it may seem a bit odd for me to be posting a 2011 list before all the 2010 lists are done, but I can’t help myself.

Last year’s list was a pretty good showing. Granted, a few of my choices last year were underwhelming, like Green Zone, Dinner for Schmucks, Alice in Wonderland, and¬†Iron Man 2, (although, I will point out I enjoyed a few of them enough that I think they’re underrated). I also placed Shutter Island in the honorable mention category, which was a mistake, it deserved far more. Clearly, I made some missteps in judgment.

However, there were some, like Inception, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim, Toy Story 3, Harry Potter 7.1, and Tron: Legacy that made the list a success.

This year’s list will obviously not be exhaustive. There are plenty of 2011 films I just don’t know enough about yet,¬†so they’ll sadly be missed. The list obviously tends toward blockbuster fare, because those are the films hyped furthest in advance, thus they are on my rader already. Also, I’m a nerd… so.

I could probably come up with honorable mentions all day, but a few off the top of my head would have to include The Hangover 2, Winnie the Pooh, and Moneyball.

Perhaps fewer will be missed this year, as I’m upping the total number of films listed from 10 to 25! With that many movies listed, there will obviously be several duds. I’m just hoping that 13 of these are hits, keeping me over the 50% mark.

Here it is, the most epic list I’ve ever made, in chronological order.

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1. The Adjustment Bureau РMarch 4

Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and John Slattery in an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story. Yes, please.

Granted, Ben Affleck is Damon’s buddy, and he was in the atrocious Dick adaptation, Paycheck, but while he is certainly impressing with his directorial work, Affleck is no Matt Damon!

I know Emily and I will at least enjoy the film on a visual level. With Emily Blunt and Matt Damon involved, we’d probably pay 10 bucks to watch the movie with the volume off.

The premise definitely has potential, and I’m really hoping this will be a good time at the movies.

[The trailer below is actually a short featurette.]

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Continue Reading →

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Epic. Meal. Time.

So I know the gauntlet has been thrown down by Scotty, and my book list from 2010 is forthcoming … but this couldn’t wait …

The evolution of the cooking television show. Julia Child. (Washington’s own) Frugal Gourmet, Yan Can Cook, Emeril, Rachael Ray, along with a plethora of others. In fact, the market is damn near oversaturated now, if not there already. The problem is, a lot of them are the same. These chuckers are all cooking the same shit.

Well, the gangstas over at Epic Meal Time, are cooking up something very, very different. These motherfuckers cook shit you ain’t never thought of … because these douchebags aren’t chefs, they’re just a bunch of dudes … from Canada.

Presented for your approval: Epic Meal Time.

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the gauntlet.

Don’t you hate when athletes and celebrities challenge and complain about each other in the media, instead of in person? Me too.

Which reminds me, we’ve only gotten lists from Brian pertaining to music, and I’m pretty sure he enjoyed other stuff last year.

Aaaaand, we haven’t gotten anything resembling a list from Wes.

What a bunch of cool looking idiots.

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fictionista. [books, the many lists of 2010.]

I’ve always wanted to read 50 books in a year. I made the commitment that 2011 will be that year. In 2010,¬†I read 37.

Mostly, I read fiction and literature. I try to keep reading fiction steadily throughout the year. Stories help keep me alive.

Here are the ten works of fiction I loved most last year. They aren’t books that actually came out last year, I am pretty sure I only read a single book that actually came out in 2010 (Mockingjay). These are just my favorite books that I read for the first time in 2010.

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1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

As I’ve written before, “It’s hard to know how to describe this book, so instead I’ll allow look to words from the story’s final page; ‘The Book Thief’ is, “so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories are damning and brilliant.”

I wept through a good number of the final 30 pages.

Everyone should read this book.”

Narrated by Death, the story takes place in Nazi Germany. Death becomes intrigued by a little girl who keeps turning up as Death busily moves about in wartorn Germany; a little girl who steals a book the first time Death sees her. Death begins keeping tabs on the girl, and then recounts her story to us.

Zusak tells a story that is so achingly tragic, and yet filled with geniune goodness.

I believe that stories and books can save the world. I also believe that very many stories are true, and a few of them actually happened. This is one of those stories that didn’t actually happen, but is so very, very true.

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2. Never Let Me Go РKazuo Ishiguro

I’ve already written about this one, so I’ll just link to that.

The book was on nearly every “Best of the Decade” list I’ve come across, and I can see why.

Since I’ve already said quite a bit about the book, I’ll look to some other reviewers to offer corroborative testimony.

The Guardian called the book “extraordinary,” as well as, “frighteningly clever.”

Yet, the Telegraph had the money quote that most closely mirrored my sentiments: “In its evocation of a pervasive menace and despair almost but not quite lost in translation – made up of the shadows of things not said, glimpsed out of the corner of one’s eye – the novel is masterly.”

True.

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3. Catch-22 РJoseph Heller

A great portion of the time, I feel like I must be absolutely insane. If I let myself go, I would probably revert to a state of constantly looking around at everyone else with a look of perpetual incredulity, pointing at the crazy shit that happens in this world, asking, “Am I the only one seeing this?”

All the baffling, batshit crazy, demonstrably false things people get away with saying will quite literally never cease to flabbergast me. People do and say so much that is not only false, but is quite easy to prove as false, and yet the cries of ‘bullshit’ are written off as liberal media bias, or homosexual agenda, or un-American, or elitist. Folks who tell the truth are written off as religious quacks or godless heretics.

We are all so carefully practiced at believing the particular bullshit that suits us, so we have to turn a blind eye to the bullshit that suits someone else.

Thankfully, God gave the world Joseph Heller, who reminded me that in a context that is fucking insane, it’s only the crazy people who are sane.

Reason doesn’t get much help these days, the world is mostly run by bureaucrats and fundamentalists, and whenever you think you’ve got them beat, you learn there’s a catch.

This book was delightfully reminiscent of a great conversation with friends over good wine or coffee, cathartically ranting about how crazy things really are. However, Heller takes that conversation and ups the clever quotient by around a billion.

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4. The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

The films are on their way. Thus, shortly most everyone will probably be familiar with the story of Katniss Everdeen of District 12.

These books, set in post-apocalypse North America, are remarkably engaging and Collins’ depiction of the effects of violence on the young is unflinching.

There were moments the books could have gone one of two ways: the choice was to either be undemanding and cloying, or honest. Collins always chose to be honest to the narrative, even when the reader was hoping otherwise.

Some might feel that’s unsatisfying, I felt quite the opposite.

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5. Perdido Street Station РChina Miéville

It’s pretty much impossible for me to describe this book at all. It’s not because I’ll give something away, it’s just that Mi√©ville’s story, set in a fantasy world centered in the city of New Crobuzon, is so unique and involved that it would take far too long to give even a general outline.

Mi√©ville’s world of Bas-Lag is a dark, gritty, steampunk world populated by a myriad of humanoid creatures that have to be read to be believed.

This guy is really smart, and by no means would you call this “easy reading.” Fun, yes. Easy, no. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’ll need a degree in literature to enjoy the book, it’s just the sort of book that has to be engaged fully. This isn’t the sort of novel to be flipped through half-attentively, or else you’ll have no idea what the hell is going on.

Yet, it’s most certainly rewarding, enough so to make it more than worth your time. After 20 pages or so Mi√©ville’s voice becomes more familiar and the harder part of the reading is actually putting the book down once in a while. This was one of those delightful times when I realized during my reading of the book that I’d be sure to read everything the author has ever written, and in this case, whatever he continues to write.

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6. The Graveyard Book РNeil Gaiman

By chance, a toddler escapes his home as a knife in the dark claims the rest of his family. Wandering into the local graveyard, the boy is taken in by the resident ghosts, protected from the danger that still looms without, and granted Freedom of the Graveyard, offering special privileges and powers which can only be bestowed by the residents of a graveyard.

Nobody, as the boy comes to be called, is cared for by the mysterious Silas, the only other resident of the graveyard who is not dead (although, he isn’t exactly alive either).

This is a really great story, at times made up of many smaller stories. Filled with Gaiman’s trademark style, the story is darkly magical and fantastic. Any chance I get to spend in Gaiman’s imagination is well worth the price of admission, and this book was no different.

The Graveyard Book is full of humor, sadness, beauty and above all, wonder. It’s Gaiman at the top of his game.

This book made me wish I myself had grown up in a graveyard, with all the quirky, idiosyncratic personalities from across the various ages of history.

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7. Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders – Neil Gaiman

Mr. Gaiman made it on the list twice, the only author to do so this year.

I’ve already written about this book at length, so I’ll just direct those interested to that.

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8. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

I assume that while there may be folks, like me, who never got around to reading this one in their youth, everyone at least knows the general story of a silly young man who makes a flippant wish, only to see the terrible consequences of what happens when that wish comes true.

Wilde was such a sagacious satirist of his culture. His genius leaps off the page from each sentence.

The thing that particularly impressed me was Wilde’s ability to put brilliant arguments and rationalizations in the mouths of his characters, so that one can’t help be see the grains of truth as well as the ¬†lies the characters used to prop up their own morally ambiguous (and at times detestable) decisions and behavior. The dialogue lies like truth. Like in life, it was often hard to know where the truth ended and the lie began.

You can certainly sense the reality that Wilde was a playwright above all, but I do wish he had left the world a few more novels to cherish.

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9. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene

I loved this book. This tale of a whiskey priest, on the run in a past-time Mexico where Catholicism is illegal, who continues to convince himself that his human weakness and frailty prohibit him from having anything to offer the people of Mexico. He almost never seems to notice that it is his human weakness and frailty that is his greatest offering. It is when he is ‚Äúholy‚ÄĚ and pious that he does the most harm, and when he is being honest and authentic that he transforms the lives around him with truth and beauty, seemingly blind to the profound impact he was having on those around him.

I must confess, before reading this book for a class, Graham Greene wasn’t on my radar at all. Well, he’s now taken up permanent residence right in the middle of my radar. He wrote with the simple, sparse power of Hemingway. The story and characters were so tragic and ordinary, and yet also full of life-changing power.

This book wasn’t just enjoyable, it quite literally changed the way I look at myself as a human being.

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10. The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The story of a father and a son attempting to make their way to the south after the apocalypse. Marked, as the world around them is, by profound violence and tragedy, the two attempt to carry hope in the midst of seemingly utter hopelessness.

As always, McCarthy’s writing is so sparse it doesn’t even include quotation marks. It works perfectly here, in this tense world in which the violence of a cannibalistic humanity is always waiting around the corner. At times, I was practically holding my breath while reading, because the prose was so quiet, I didn’t want to disturb the unfolding story. Or, perhaps I was so engaged in the narrative that I didn’t want to alert the story’s various villains to the location of the hiding father and son by breathing too loudly.

To be so relentlessly true to his vision of such a violent world, and yet still leave the reader with hope is quite the feat. McCarthy pulls it off beautifully.

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just getting started, part one. [music, the many lists of 2010.]

This list has been in the works for far too long, as we’ve been adding more and more bands. Thus, here is part one, and we’ll get your part two very soon. Promise.

These are bands that are still early in their careers, maybe this is their first album, maybe it’s their sophomore work, either way, they’re artists on the rise. Each of these bands has us crazy excited to see what comes next, in what will hopefully be long careers marked by innovation and talent.

1. The Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

Brian: The Local Natives make catchy indie pop tunes with tight harmonies, and catchy melodies. I’m trying hard not to compare them to other bands, but that proves be to a bit hard, anyway. Scott does a fantastic job of articulating this better than I could.

The record is really catchy. I feel like The Local Natives are one of only a handful of bands (a large handful, considering how many bands are out there) that can make an album full of songs where none deserve to be skipped. Every song could be a hit.

Scott: I got this album thanks to last.fm. “Sun Hands” kept playing on my listener radio, and before I knew it, I’d bought the CD and was hooked. With all the bands I’ve been hearing about forever, only to finally get around to listening, it was nice to have a band come completely out of left field like this. They weren’t on my radar at all, and I went from having never heard of them to having them constantly in my playlists in mere days.

Gorilla Manor reminds me of Vampire Weekend, in that the band plays with various “World” rhythm styles at times. The album also reminds me again of Vampire Weekend, and also of Grizzly Bear, in that they are at once fun and earnest. According to Wikipedia, they are actually at times referred to as a sort of “West Coast Grizzly Bear.” Which, in one sense, is fair, while in another is a bit too dismissive of what The Local Natives bring to the table.

Either way, this album is good listening!

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2. Holy Fuck – Latin

B: Holy Fuck are a different type of electronic band … when you think of the electronic genre, maybe you first think of instrument loops and programmed elements. Holy Fuck does whatever they can to leave those conventions behind for live instrumentation. This aspect almost lends an organic, improvisational feel to their music as compared to more traditional electronic acts.

Latin, Holy Fuck’s latest offering, is fun and energetic. It possesses the raw, live feel of a show, but it is also polished and tight. They seem to have found their niche, and are clearly excelling.¬†It is very safe to say that we here at RtM are excited to see what else Holy Fuck comes to the table with moving forward.

S: Holy Fuck offer exactly what I would expect from a band called Holy Fuck, a fun, sexy, electronic party in musical form.

Like Brian said, you won’t find electronica here. We get a band who avoids that overused subgenre to remind us all that electronic music is far bigger than music for a rave, a big part of it is using real drums and bass. It sounds like these guys love playing music together, and the fun they have making it works its way into your earholes and keeps your mind-grapes juicy.

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3. Lay Low – Farewell Good Night’s Sleep

S: Sparse, gentle, adorable American folk/country… from Iceland. Lay Low is great music for the dreary days of Reykjav√≠k or¬†Seattle.

Like so many great artists, this music can be the soundtrack for a broken heart. Not angry, no wallowing, this is a lullaby, a gentle kiss to see you off to sleep in the hopes that things will be a little better in the morning.

B: I agree. Lay Low’s music is ¬†bluesy, folky, and country all wrapped into a nice little package that sounds like the music you’d hear on 1970s AM radio. She plays music that sounds old, and seems to sing from the heart of an old soul. The way the record was recorded sounds as if it should be played on vinyl and would totally blend in seamlessly when played after that George Jones record your dad used to play.

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4. Yeasayer – Odd Blood


S: I fell fast. I fell hard. This love was made to last forever.

I’ve already written enough about this album here.

B: These guys are pretty awesome. We knew this after 2007’s All Hour Cymbals. But, if there was any question, they’ve left no doubts now. Odd Blood is a complete album. It is dynamic in its pacing and contrast. There may not be a better pair of back to back songs than “Madder Red” and “O.N.E.”, though each track prior and after is pretty damn awesome too. The trajectory of Yeasayer after their first two albums is straight up, with no slump in site. To quote Spin magazine’s review of Odd Blood, “Where did this come from, and what’s coming next?”

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5. Breathe Owl Breathe – Magic Central

B: Beardy, caped goodness.

Apparently, Breathe Owl Breathe have been known to wear capes while performing. Lead vocalist Micah Middaugh has a pretty epic beard (even by indie standards). I will not be convinced otherwise that these two factors lead to the greatness of this band. Magic Central is an album full of acoustic guitars, cello, banjo, and soothing male/female vocals. It’s lovely Michigan-made music that sounds like it was made in and for the Pacific Northwest.

S: I’ve already done this with Local Natives, but I need to give credit where credit is due. Whereas I got into The Local Natives because of last.fm, I discovered Breathe Owl Breathe thanks to the greatest radio station in the universe, KEXP. Afternoon DJ Kevin Cole kept playing their music and singing the praises of this year’s album, Magic Central.

I enjoyed “Dogwalkers of the New Age” enough to pick up the whole album, and the rest is history. Brian’s right, you can practically hear the beard in Micah’s vocals, which are sweet and soft and perfect for story-time. I have really terrible insomnia, but I bet that if this man read to me every night, I would be sleeping peacefully in no time.

Really folks, this is beautiful stuff.

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