TV Show of the Month:
Band in Seattle
An extremely well-produced show that airs Saturday nights on CW11/KSTW that showcases performances and interviews with an incredible variety of Seattle bands (hence the name of the show). I’ve been in the live studio audience for a couple of the tapings. And many of my friends have been fortunate enough to perform on the show! It’s fun, and the interspersed interviews give great insight into these Seattle bands that (as the hipsters might say) you’ve probably never heard of.
Video Game of the Month:
Super Mario Maker This is a dream come true. I was about seven or eight years old when Super Mario Bros. was released into arcades (and shortly afterwards into the original NES). Ever since then there has been a fantasy way in the back of my mind about what kinds of levels I would design if I could. Well, now I can. And it is gloriously fun. One of the reasons why I have posted so few updates on this website in the past month is because almost all of my free time (that I’m not spending with my beautiful wife and beautiful daughter) is spent making levels and playing levels that other people have made.
I’m actually shocked at how few of my friends also have this game. I personally believe that every person in the whole entire world should have this game. This isn’t just the game of the month. This is the game of the year. The game of the decade. The game of the century. Heck, the game of the millennium. So of you have Super Mario Maker, please play my levels (you can see the level code for one of them in the tweet above). And send me your level codes so I can play yours!
Tweeter of the Month:
Ryan Reynolds @vancityreynolds
Hey, Chris, what are you doing? Ryan Reynolds is a huge movie star; he doesn’t need you to promote him! Well, that’s true, but he also just happens to be frikkin’ hilarious, and it’s very obvious that no manager/handler/PR ever gets anywhere near his tweets:
The word, "alleged" adds intrigue to anything.
"This alleged candy is yummy."
"My alleged brother is hog-tied in my van, crying for help."
Movie of the Month:
Hey, this is a scary movie! It is exquisitely directed and has an absolute mastery of its visuals. There are long, lingering shots looking across landscapes into darkness where something might be coming. There are some extremely well-timed 360-degree rotations that invite you to see coming threats that the characters are oblivious to. And the art direction is absolutely fascinating; the movie’s fashions and prop design are a crazy mishmash of 1970s-through-today aesthetics that gives the movie a weird, dreamlike-but-timeless feel. Setting it in a Detroit suburb is also brilliant, with the bombed-out metropolis looming menacingly in the background. The movie preys on the primal nightmare of being unable to escape a relentless pursuer. In fact, I’m kinda mad at this movie because I wrote a screenplay in college called “Relentless” that had a similar premise!
Video Game of the Month:
A moody, extremely atmospheric game. You play a semi-sentient spacesuit that has fallen from an unknown height (your memory is all janked up). Your internal sensors aren’t working so you can’t tell how damaged your occupying human is, but you just know you must get him/her to medical help as soon as possible. The suit A.I. goes through some fascinating conflicts about putting its occupant in short-term dangerous situations in order to procure long-term help. It’s short, but it’s very enjoyable and the it has an old-school point-and-click adventure video game feel to its puzzles.
Artist of the Month:
A very cartoony-looking illustration style belies the extremely creepy stories told by Emily Carroll. She specializes in a kind of rustic, Gothic, fairy-tale-esque style of horror, with normal people confronted with the fantastic(ally awful) among the mundane.
Mindflakes is also exceptionally skilled at re-tweeting really funny tweets. I’ve found some of my favorite funny tweeters through mindflakes.
TV Show of the Month:
Have I never actually done this as an “Of the Month” before? What is wrong with me!? This is the best show on television right now. Period. End of sentence.
At first glance it might seem to be in the same vein as Adventure Time (indeed, the show’s creator Rebecca Sugar (her real name) worked on Adventure Time before starting Steven Universe), but while Adventure Time takes place in a wacky, zany, anything-goes world, Steven Universe takes place in a much more intimate, careful, and unabashedly sentimental world. I’ve never seen a cartoon that hits more emotional buttons with such unnering accuraccy; it earns its sentimentality with incredibly thoughtful and insightful character work. Steven Universe is full of funny, quirky, heroic, and deeply-flawed characters who are all floundering through their world in their own ways, sometimes together and sometimes painfully alone. Heroes are allowed to make mistakes on this show, and it isn’t always wrapped neatly up by the end of the episode. Steven Universe also has some of the most careful and amazing backstory and world-building in any Sci-Fi show I’ve seen, as we view the world through Steven’s 10-year-old eyes and revelations are slowly and surprisingly stumbled upon by him.
Tabletop Game of the Month:
A game for a minimum of 4 people (or 3 if you get certain expansions) that simulates and old western. Each player is given a role: Sheriff, Deputy, Renegade, Outlaw(s). Each role has its own goal to complete to win the game: all the Outlaws must die for the Sheriff to win the game; the Sheriff must die for the Outlaw(s) to win the game; etc. It’s pretty fast-paced, and gameplay can take anywhere from a few minutes to quite a long time depending on just how good y’all are at killin’ each other.
Comic Book of the Month: Junior Braves of the Apocalypse
by Michael Tanner & Greg Smith
A troupe of “Junior Braves” (think Boy Scouts) heads into the mountains for a retreat, only to return to town to discover that a zombie-like apocalypse has happened in their absence. The boys must use their wits and their Junior Brave training to survive and discover if any of their families have made it through the horrors alive. This book, co-written by Fools Play’s own Green Fool Michael Tanner, is like the fun of The Goonies and Monster Squad meets The Walking Dead in one fantastic graphic novel!
Podcast of the Month: Conversation Parade with Open Mike Eagle & John Moe
Adventure Time is a cartoon that has attracted a tremendous adult audience. So here is a podcast where two very smart, very nerdy, and very funny people (John Moe and my pal Mike Eagle) discuss undercurrent themes that run through the show and also interview creators and cast members! It’s a lot of fun to listen to, so DO IT. Oh, and the title of the podcast is based on a rather obscure BMO-created video game from the cartoon. You can watch it in “action” in this clip:
Website of the Month: North of Reality
A delightful series of (almost daily) short prose vignettes of fantastic, surrealist, and unfettered imagination, often with a sinister or threatening air hanging in the background. I’ve written about Uel Aramchek before when I posted his series of tweets about the “Invisible States of America.” These are like those, only a bit longer and more developed, but still with that same sense of mystery and awe.
Video Game of the Month: Steven Universe: Attack the Light
This is a rather fun li’l turn-based RPG based on one of the best cartoons in existence right now, Steven Universe. The controls are very intuitive and easy, leveling-up is natural enough that you never need to grind (very important to me), and the animations and voices (all the voice actors/actresses from the cartoon) are great. It’s not bad at all for $2.99, and it’s a great companion piece that manages to capture much of the charm of the cartoon. Available on a mobile device near you.
Restaurant of the Month: Ice Cream Social
It’s gettin’ hot out there… so instead of taking off all yer clothes, why not get some delicious iced cream? For many a year Ice Cream Social was only available in food cart form, but a while back they opened up a permanent, brick-and-mortar ice cream parlor on the bustling 6th Ave in Tacoma. Results seem to be very positive: there’s often a line out the door on warm days. There’s a good combination of permanent standard flavors as well as a menu of rotating experimental flavors (like strawberry-balsamic). It ain’t cheap, but it’s supremely high-quality.
An example Ice Cream Social menu.
Website of the Month: Day of the Shirt
You know how there are now a bunch of different websites that offer cool/nerdy/geeky T-shirts that are pretty cheap (usually $10-$12) but are only available for about 24 hours? You probably know about one or two of those sites, but there are gobs of them. And it would be a real pain to keep track of them all… except for this website, that aggregates them all for you. Updated every hour, refreshed every day. Now you need never miss out on any geeky shirt you could possibly want!
TV Show of the Month:
Hot-damn, this is how you do Daredevil. This show is dark. Dark. Horrible things happen to good people. Routinely. The heroes are mostly powerless, and lose more than they win (for the most part). The villain is a complex, developed character. Lies, betrayals, good ol’ Catholic guilt, and bloody, bloody beatings. All the performances are just spot-on, especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin. He’s like a gigantic tea kettle that is constantly in danger of boiling over, but at the same time is genuinely shy and uncomfortable around other people, and especially in public. Even though at times it is a grueling experience, it is an amazing show.
Album of the Month:
They Might Be Giants: Glean
They Might Be Giants have a new non-children’s album! And it’s very strong. The worst songs on this album drop only to the level of “average TMBG songs,” which still put them light-years ahead of most any other songs in existence. And the best songs are absolutely stellar. My favorite is “End of the Rope,” which has a very cool, almost-spy vibe to it and a wonderful lyric cadence. Also fantastic are “Madam, I Challenge You to A Duel” and “Hate the Villanelle” (which is actually a 100% correct villanelle, a very strict poetic form). But really all 15 songs are good stuff.
Documentary of the Month:
Atari: Game Over
A fascinating urban legend among nerdy circles is the tragic tale of the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game for the Atari 2600. A huge bomb, it was critically and commercially panned, and Atari was stuck with warehouses full of unsold cartridges. Legend says they were unceremoniously buried in a landfill in New Mexico. The whole tale is symbolic of the home video game crash of the early 1980s, which wouldn’t be rescued until the NES hit the scene. This documentary is part historical—tracing the rise-and-fall of Atari and the 2600’s place in nerd history, as well as the personal history of the programmer who actually created the E.T. video game—and part mystery. Did this landfill event actually happen? Can it be found? There is a surprising amount of build-up and suspense!
Video Game of the Month:
Google Maps Pac-Man
Wha-what!? Starting yesterday, if you’re in Google Maps and you zoom in to a certain magnification, a little box appears next to the “Google Earth” box. It’s very important that you click that box. When you do, the streets you’re viewing will suddenly become overlayed with dots… ghosts will appear… and you’ll be able to play Pac-Man on those streets!
Pac-Man on Capitol Hill!
I should probably mention that this is NOT an April Fool’s Prank! This really happened!
Album of the Month:
Three Ninjas: The Sadness Will Last Forever
Three Ninjas releases his second full-length old-school country album, and it’s even better than the first (Alcohol & Isolation)! It’s old-timey depressing country songs about drinking and lost loves and horrible lives. There are a couple of cover songs mixed in amongst the originals, but Three Ninjas’s songwriting skills in this genre are so honed that I’d bet you wouldn’t be able to tell me which ones they are (unless you happened to have heard of them already). The music craft has been even more finely-tuned from his previous outings. I don’t wanna call it “polished” because that implies a certain slickness and dullness whereas this album has a very skillful rawness. A “realness” I guess I should say. Listen; it’s good.
TV Show of the Month:
Yo Gabba Gabba!
This is my 17-month-old daughter’s favorite TV show. Sure, it’s a very-little-kids’ show, but Yo Gabba Gabba has a pedigree and a spirit that is sorely lacking from most very-little-kids’ shows. What other show in this genre has musical performances from the likes of Weezer, The Flaming Lips, Erykah Badu, Cornelius, The Shins, and The Roots (just to name a very few), most of which perform original songs written just for this show! Yo Gabba Gabba also has a wry self-awareness of its own ridiculousness that I especially appreciate, particularly with the over-the-top cheerfulness of the host, DJ Lance Rock. Watch (if you can find it) the episode co-starring Jack Black and tell me that I’m wrong. And then watch the “DJ Lance’s Super Music & Toy Room” episode and just marvel at the epic awesomeness that keeps pouring from the screen. TRUST ME.