Music: Tank and the Bangas; NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

I think you have to have been living under a rock not to know what the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts art. So you don’t need me to explain how good they can be to find new music or to see good indie musicians do what they do in an intimate setting. And the setlist isn’t tight or too defined, the musicians can talk or riff or whatever makes them feel the music or connected to the small audience in the office at the time. I’m not an NPR fan and I don’t watch every new Tiny Desk video when it goes up, but every now and again something will catch my eye.

Last year’s winner of the Tiny Desk Contest was a band called Tank and the Bangas. The video went up pretty much a year ago yesterday and it’s 20+ minutes of good fun. Their music is hip hop soul with a big voice and really hefty lyrics. I fell in love pretty much immediately, listened to all the songs I could find and then sent the video out to all of my friends.

They were in town for a Tedx youth conference recently and I’m kicking myself for not knowing. I would’ve loved the chance to see them perform in person. But I’ll settle for watching this video over again a few more times.

Critical Role S2 Pinterest Boards

From my time putting together things for a Dragon Age RP board, I’ve built up quite a collection of Pinterest boards for both characters and ships. Since starting though, my collection has expanded quite a bit to literature, podcasts and other media I enjoy. These days, I’m pretty sure you can tell exactly how much I’m into a thing by what boards I’ve created.

My boards are themed in a way, characters assigned cards from both major and minor arcana from the tarot, as well as the lenormand cards. (As a note, I started doing this long before the Major Arcana for Critical Role S1 was ever announced so my cards don’t match the characters, and I refuse to adjust them to match.)

I tend to pick and choose characters that I like best, I’ve never created a full spectrum of boards for all the characters in a thing. I never put together a full list of boards for Critical Role S1 characters. And yet, Critical Role S2 totally made me want a board for each one of the characters. Today I created the final board I needed to finish my collection for the Mighty Nein. If that’s the kind of thing that interests you, I’m listing them below.

Feel free to follow one, all, everything… none. I just like having them all in one place and thought I’d show them off.

Music: Secret for the Mad by dodie

I’m very much not the demographic for Dodie Clark’s YouTube career, or even probably her music. But I find her honest and charming and her music utterly delightful. I appreciate her communication about her struggles with mental illness and her ability to put them on camera. I love the lyrics to her songs because they feel like they come from a real place and were I a younger adult, I’d likely find them highly applicable to my own feelings. Instead of sort of wistfully nostalgic. Actually I find myself somewhere between the two on most days and dodie’s sweet, soft voice is a good remedy for when you find yourself more wistfully nostalgic than tragically and seemingly unceasingly young. (For me, anyway.)

Nailed It: pure distilled schadenfreude in a 30 minute baking show

If you need something to watch for a few hours, do yourself a favor and watched Netflix new show, Nailed It. I’m not a huge fan of baking or cooking shows, but there really needs to be more than six episodes of Nailed It. Or at least there’s a promise for a second season.

Nailed It is a baking show for home bakers who… aren’t really very good, or experienced. There are three challengers in each show, and two challenges. The first challenge, Baker’s Choice, gives the baker’s a chance to pick from one of three similarly decorated treats to try and recreate. They’re given between 45-50 minutes to attempt the recreation and then judged on both sight and taste. The winner of Baker’s Choice gets a prize (a stand mixer in several episodes) and the chance to wear a bright gold chef’s hat for the second round signifying that they’re the one to beat.

In the second round, they start from scratch and all three are tasked with recreating an amazing cake – a shark, a volcano, a floral wedding cake – in 2 hours. A daunting task for even a professional. The baker’s get recipe’s of course, and during this second round are each given a panic button where they can call for help from one of the judges. In most episode the person who performed the worst in the first round is also given some kind of helper button to either distract or freeze their opponents for three minutes.

Inevitably, the bakers aren’t quite up for the challenge. They spin around their creations to the judges while saying, singing or jazz-handing their way through “Nailed it!” And usually their delivery is met with chuckles from the judges. Comedian Nicole Byer, the host of the show, is hilarious and her laugh is thoroughly contagious. At the end of round three the judges again make a decision on taste and presentation and this time the winner gets $10k. I’d probably let someone laugh at my failed baking decisions for ten thousand dollars too. 


Tomb Raider 2018; no-spoiler review except this spoiler: I loved it

I’d planned to take my little sister out to see Love, Simon tonight but it was nearly a sold out show, which rarely happens at our theater. So, rather than wait for a later show, we went to see Tomb Raider instead. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I’ve seem some pretty cynical reviews and some really shitty ones from manbabies that care more about the size of Lara’s chest than anything else in the movie. Taking everything I’ve heard with a huge grain of salt, I thought we’d check it out. I was never a fan of the early Tomb Raider games, they felt unnecessarily difficult and way too focused on Lara’s appearance (they were).

In recent years with the reboot of the video game series, I decided to check them out again. And I fell in love with Lara, the story, the game play. They’re fantastic games. A little bit open-world, a little bit puzzle-platformer, a little rpg. They’ve got good story, good puzzles and a great protagonist. I’ve never really gotten into the multiplayer aspects, but I’ve loved the single player content of both games and am eagerly awaiting the third.

I’m really pleased to be able to say that I loved this movie. It’s everything the rebooted games are but in live action. They follow a similar story path, we see the same younger, scrappier Lara the games have gifted us and plenty of room to expand. I do have a soft spot for the cheesier Angelina Jolie movies, but this movie is a world apart. The action scenes are really great, none of it felt like too much CGI for me and several of them gave me really great flashback moments to the 2013 Tomb Raider game.

There’s a lot of new stuff coming out soon (YES, I DID WATCH THE INFINITY WAR TRAILER AND GET SUPER EXCITED WHY DO YOU ASK?) but I’d love to go see this again if I get the chance. It’s not perfect — I wish there were more women for one — but it’s a really good place to start for a new series and I hope that we get the chance to see where they take it. Alicia Vikander is a great Lara Croft, playing up the athleticism and the feisty sarcasm as her video game counterpart. I think she could make something great out of this series. 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick; reading different and switching up genres

Typically I read a lot of fantasy, modern (read: urban) and low-magic, but I also love a good historical fiction or horror novel. As not picky as I am about music, I tend to be pretty particular about the stuff I read. But lately, I’ve been a little tired of fiction, finding it difficult to get through the ends of books if it slows down even a little. I talked a little bit about it when I talked about reading Mamrie’s book. But since then I’ve picked up a few other memoir/non-fiction/celebrity kind of books to read. They tend to be a little short reads, but since they’re typically set up in short chapters/stories as well it feels like they’re faster too.

I finished Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick today. Memoir isn’t really the right word but it’s sort of a collection of her stories of getting into show business and the business of being a sort of an anxiety-ridden misanthrope. I’m a fan of her work both musicals and movies, I even saw Camp, which is … recommended only if you’re a fan of musicals and can stomach a poor teen comedy.

Anyway, I enjoyed her stories and honestly, it was just kind of nice to be grounded in stories about places and things that are recognizeable. It’s less work for my stressed brain. It might be one of the reasons I’m enjoying podcasts that are less about adventures and fantasy as well. As much fun as escapist fantasy can be, personally I think it requires more thought on my part that I’m not in the mood for lately. Especially on busy or stressful days.

I don’t know if anyone else is like this too. I doesn’t happen to me very often at all but this is lingering a little. Next up, I picked up I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee.

Music: Rolling in the Deep by Adele (Cover by Scary Pockets with Sarah Dugas)

As big of a fan as I am of music, I’m not the sort of person that hates on covers. Obviously I’ve recommended at least one here before. But lest that not accurately portray my love of covers, let me make it clear here and now. I LOVE covers, even bad ones, even cheesy ones. I love hearing someone else’s take on music I know really, really well. Sometimes they bring a sound to the music that I find interesting, sometimes they change the music in a way that brings out lyrics I hadn’t noticed before, sometimes it’s just a new way for me to fall in love with the song all over again. Sure, not ever cover is great and I might just listen to it once and pass by. But sometimes I might decide that I like the cover better than original. It’s all good in the cover game.

So then let me tell you how much I love Scary Pockets. They’re a funk band doing what Scott Bradlee did with Postmodern Jukebox (if you ask who? um… go figure that out and come back to me). They’re taking popular songs and make funk covers out of them. And listen, if you’re not into funk music, or maybe if you’re not sure if you like funk music, Scary Pockets is a good way to check it out. I mean some of the ‘funk’ is questionably true funk, but listen… they’re doing good at what they’re doing.
Plus, they’re giving all these great voices a chance to shine by not having one official Scary Pockets vocalist. 
Their most recent video is Rolling in the Deep by Adele, but funkified. The singer, Sarah Dugas, has an amazing voice and does the song justice. It’s worth a listen. 
HOWEVER, that’s not what I want to leave you with. While that’s good and shows you where they are now, I want to show you one of the ones I love the very most. Darren Chriss (of Team Starkid and Glee fame) has sang for them a few times. And the below is my favorite, a cover of Wonderwall by Oasis. Give it a listen and then check out the rest of what Scary Pockets has for you. If YouTube isn’t your thing, they’re on iTunes and Google Play and Spotify too. 

My Desk is a Wonderland

I really dislike having a boring desk at work. I have to actually WORK there for 8+ hours a day, every now and again I like looking around at my work area and finding something that’ll make me smile. And let’s be honest, Funko Pop figures have sort of changed the whole game when it comes to desk or cube decoration. Here’s my basic set up:

From L to R: Loki (from the first Thor movie, Superman, Maleficent, La Muerta & Harley Quinn.
In front is a smaller lip balm Maleficent.

If you think it’s odd that picture has more than one Maleficent in it, you don’t know me very well. There’s always at least one near me at all times (except the bathrooms — someday that might change). I’ll have to go into my love for Maleficent another day. Anyway, yes. I purposefully arranged them in a villain, hero, villain, hero format. To look around my cube there’s a few other smaller figures: a wendigo (the Hannibal Wendigo specifically from the ended-too-soon tv show), the evil queen (Grimhilde) from Snow White, and a Riddler.

Today, I remembered that when I switched cubes at the office, I’d stashed a smaller Doctor Who and a dalek figure in a cabinet and never put him out again. He’s one of my favorites (and a non-pop figure). It’s a figure of Ten and when he was on my desk before I made a bunch of cut out word bubbles with quotes from the seasons with David Tennant. These were a little like mood reflectors for me, I could change them out depending on how I was feeling in the morning. So I pulled them out today, found as many of the word bubbles as I could and set him back on a shelf near me.

The day suddenly felt 100% more manageable, because I could look up at him and laugh when I needed too. “It goes ding when there’s stuff!” is one my favorite Who quotes maybe ever because it’s so completely absurdist. It never fails to make me smile. The episode it’s from, Blink, while giving us one of modern Who’s most memorable villains, the Weeping Angels, also gave us the really adorable romance between Billy and Sally. And it’s one of the rare episodes where the Doctor isn’t really the main character — and it still works to give fans a really compelling story. I’m all for those. Much like I still can’t hear ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” without thinking of the episode, Love and Monsters.

As I was putting Ten back up on the shelf I realized how much comfort I put into my cube so that there’s something enjoyable pretty much anywhere I look. I took a few extra pictures to show off how packed with stuff I keep my cube. And yet, I managed to forget to photograph the biggest, most noticeable thing about my cube decorations. It doesn’t have a name but I know for a fact that people use it as a landmark in the sea of cubes on my side of the floor. So it’s pretty special. I’ll have to talk about it another day too.

I think I’m pretty lucky to be able to deck out my desk area as much as I do — not everyone has more than maybe a family picture or two in their work area. But personally, I think it’s how I make it through really tough days. It’s not just boring family pictures, it’s the pictures that’ll make me laugh, it’s the gifts from friends or family that make me smile.

Do you have an area at work that you can decorate? What do you — or would you — put in it to keep you going?

Where and how do you run?

This is one of those sort of doomsday/apocalypse kind of thoughts. But due to some of the story in Jessica Jones, I’ve been thinking about how and where I would run if the worst happened. Like if you ABSOLUTELY have to go somewhere because your personal FBI guy decides to turn you in or you commit a crime you want to get away from or there’s a super-villain after you (or a superhero, who am I to dictate what kind of super you want to be)…. whatever, we all have our reasons.

Specifically, I’m talking about the sort of running where technology works against you and where continuing to use your own identity is not an option.
Where do you go and how do you get there? I’m pretty much of the thought that in this day and age, the average joe has no real choice but the streets in a major metropolitan city. I mean, it’s sort of the sad conclusion of modern society that it’s easiest to hide in a crowd of people that people actively look away from. 
There’s someone in season two of Jessica Jones that she goes to for fake identification more than once and I couldn’t help but think how unrealistic that is. I don’t know, maybe in New York City everyone knows someone who knows a guy that can get you a new identity. But that’s not the case in the suburbs, or for normal people. Not too mention, even if that is a plausible option because somehow you know someone, unless they owe you a really big favor that shit isn’t cheap. And if you’re about to run, every cent counts. 
You can’t rent rooms anywhere without id, or travel and even buying things in cash is a tricky proposition if it’s expensive enough. And then, for funsies, pretend you’re starting this new life with no cash whatsoever. For whatever reason you can’t grab any before you leave, there’s nothing left to take, or you didn’t have any to begin with. Maybe you can scrounge up a few dollars but that’s not going to last long. 
With some time maybe you can grab things to sell before you leave. Or maybe there’s something on you worth selling. Chances of having something expensive enough to sell on me at any given time is pretty low. Unless pawn shops have started dealing in lipstick (because usually that’s all I have on me at any time of any value), I’m sort of out of luck.
These thoughts haven’t really gone anywhere — I live the sort of life where I’m more likely to need to run from a zombie apocalypse than some sort of hitman, but it’s an interesting thought experiment anyway. And not completely without its uses. Knowing where the nearest libraries, soup kitchens, domestic shelters or homeless shelters are in your town or city is pretty useful. In cities where public transportation isn’t a priority for suburban neighborhoods figuring out where the nearest bus stops are and what it costs, is also good information. 
My neighborhood for instance has a bus stop but it would take me a bunch of stops and changes to get anywhere useful, I’d have better luck walking toward downtown. But then I’d have to consider the best time to make that walk, on flat land anyone walking on the road is easily spotted… I’d be better served trying to float down the river and that has its own host of issues. 
No plan is perfect. But I’m curious what other people have come up with, if anything. Have you ever considered what it would take for you to run without money or technology? And where would you go?

Jessica Jones Season 2 — AKA I’m not sure how I feel about it

I managed to finish Jessica Jones Season 2 tonight and as the title might suggest, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I didn’t watch The Defenders (maybe I’ll get back to it, but it’s not a priority) so I’m not sure how well any of it ties in, or doesn’t, to what happened there. Although I feel like it’s probably pretty stand-alone from it, given that the only real ties I saw/heard in season two related to Jeri.

For a pretty spoiler-free review I can say that I both enjoyed Jessica’s progression in this season and what the focus was for her with Kilgrave out of the picture. I can also say that it’s pretty freaking cool that they employed female-only directors for Season 2, however there was also a long way they could’ve gone to improve some of their diversity issues. Black women specifically got an unfair shake on screen and in ways that absolutely could’ve gone any direction. It’s not enough to cast black actors, there’s no excuse from writers not to be more cognizant of the roles those actors will be playing and what it’ll look like on screen.

What I’m not really happy about (again in a way that’s the most spoiler-free I can make it) is the direction they took Trish in this season. I understand the progression from her interests in the first season that this is one of the directions that could’ve gone. But, I felt it was really predictable in the beginning of season two and by the end, it was tiring and played out. To be a little more specific that’ll only be spoilery once you get a few episodes into the season — I really hate that she gets rewarded for that, even if we don’t see it explicitly by the end of the season, it obvious enough.

One of the other things that’s sort of holding back my complete enthusiasm for the season as a whole is the very cyclical nature of the arguments that start to happen in every episode about half-way in as Jessica makes the biggest discovery of the season. I don’t have to say what it is to say that the way she talks herself in and out, or other people talk her in and out of the same decision in almost every episode gets old fast. And then to have the decision taken out of her hands entirely by the end of the season, undid part of the work of the first season. I get the character choice that was made and what that could set up for a third season, but it didn’t have to go that way. It could’ve ended a dozen other ways and season three wouldn’t suffer for opportunities to rehash the outcome.

I’m not really going to address Jeri’s story line. I feel the same way about the whole season as I feel about her story. I do like Carrie Ann Moss as an actress though and I really feel like she and Robin Wright and she need to have some show where they play high-powered lesbians with great hair and expensive clothes. Or just give me some President Claire Underwood/Supreme Court Justice Jeryn Hogarth fanfic and I’d be good.