Monday, July 30, 2012

Lists: Favorite Web Series

Web Series. Over the past few months, I’ve been watching more web series than conventional television shows because they’re usually shorter and readily available via YouTube. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m really like YouTube. These are just a few of my favorites, and since a lot of them are older series, you can watch several episodes at a time instead of waiting for the next one to come out. If you're interested, you can watch a playlist of each series if you click on their titles.

Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog. The series is narrated by an aspiring villain who has fallen in love with a kind and gentle citizen who attempts to find the good in everyone. As the series progresses, the narrator is forced to choose between being in love and defeating his arch nemesis. And there’s singing. It was one of the first mainstream web series that proved the internet could be used as a medium for episodic content, and unlike most web series, it's structured more like a movie instead of a television show, which means its only one season with a clear, definite end. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it was written and directed by Joss Whedon with a cast that includes Neal Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion.
The Guild. Speaking of Felicia Day, she’s also the writer, producer, and protagonist of The Guild, a web series that follows her nerdy, socially awkward MMORPG guild IRL. In other news, you don’t have to understand my previous sentence to enjoy the web series, it’s hilarious. Essentially, the protagonist befriends the band of internet strangers who she’s only met through a World of Warcraft like game in real life. The series is on its sixth season with commentary videos on its first five seasons so you could potentially waste hours of your life if you feel so incline. I mean-- in a good way.

VGHS. Freddie Wong has recently concluded the first season of VGHS, a web series about a boy who gets accepted into Video Game High School where students study to become professional gamers. And honestly, the producers of the series could have just slopped the episodes together and packaged it to the video game obsessed counterculture because even if it wasn’t great, it would still be every pre-teen boy’s wet dream to go to a school devoted to video games. Fortunately, it’s great. With its amazing cast, every character is rounded and witty, and the pacing and control of the story is better than most shows available on television. And of course, the visuals are so stunning and realistic that you’d want to transfer to VGHS before school starts.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Created by Hank Green, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austin. And although major modifications include using a webcam instead of pen and paper and minimizing the family to three Bennet sisters instead of five (Mary's their cousin and Kitty is a cat), it still remains faithful to the source material in both story and character development. The series also provides an accurate portrayal of the current generation of young adults. Not only does the protagonist maintain a vlog on YouTube, but all of the significant characters regularly update their Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts in character. Even Kitty the cat has a Twitter account. Through the comment section, viewers are able to interact with the story and its characters while providing an outlet for fans of the series and Jane Austin alike.

Malice – The Webseries. Last but not least, Malice revolves around a dysfunctional family who recently moved into a creepy house with a cemetery across the backyard. Within minutes of their arrival, peculiar events start to occur, and it’s apparent that they are not welcome. Even though it probably has the lowest production budget of all the web series mentioned, the director never compromises his vision, and each episode delivers an air of suspense and surprisingly creepy and realistic special effects. With every scene, you can tell that it’s a labor of love from everyone involved, and the series is reminiscent of a classic episode of ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark.'

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pupdate: Pup Pup Cheerio

Dharma always has props that I'm pretty sure
he can't use with his paws.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trip to Abilene, Texas: Redux

Yesterday, my mom and I visited my sister in Abilene, Texas. And I don't want to generalize our family ventures, but they usually stem from my mom's regressive attempt to compensate for missing majority our childhood. Although I usually enjoy our vacation trips, they usually focus more on the location instead of the element of family. Don't get me wrong; our last trip was to Universal Studios Orlando was amazing, and it felt great to geek out over Harry Potter and the sprawling shops of Downtown Disney, but it was a vacation. On one of our last days, we sat on the Universal Studio's lawn and watched the sunset along the theme park's silhouette, and we knew in just a few days, we would be pumpkins. We were mutually sharing an experience meant to savor and romanticized for years to come, but in most regards, it lacked substance. To some extent, our trip to Abilene wasn't just a condensed vacation, but it was a glimpse of the present, the convergence of our childhood and upbringing meeting the cusp of our plans and future.

If you want, you can stare at this picture for
three hours and feel like you were there too.

Along the three hour drive to Abilene, my mom discussed the matters of change in the imminent future, which would have seemed a little heavy if it wasn't for the rolling hills and trees that littered across the stretching highway. Within the next year, my parents will (finally) pay off the house, and she mentioned different cities where they would prefer to live. With each new vacation, my parents immediately decide they could move there, which has led to several potential cities scattered all across the country. Afterwards, we talked about my job, which led into the inevitable lecture about increasing my 41K and the prospects of getting a new car depending on the cost of repairs on my old one. Eventually, we talked about the blue skies and puffy white clouds and the desolate but calming appeal of small towns and open pastures. The roads were smooth, the traffic was minimal, and for the last couple hours, my mind was free to wander.

After we arrived in Abilene, we drove across the highway, past the retired fleet of airplanes, the rural back roads, and a city wide pet cemetery across the railroad track until we were officially in the heart of Clyde, Texas, where my sister works as a paramedic. Although the ambulance station lies in a small town, where there were two hour lines and a prestigious ribbon-cutting ceremony by the mayor for the recent grand opening of a Chicken Express, their services stretch across Callahan County, which encompasses 901 square miles and nearly 13,550 citizens. Regardless of whether you're naive or unimpressed by the size and scope of things, you'd be glad to have their services when you're having a heart attack or you're involved in a traumatic car accident in the rural fringes of nowhere. Despite the fact that they deal with life or death situations on a moment to moment bases, it's surprising how collective everyone seemed, both in composure and as a group. And even though my sister shutters at commitment and the very idea of hugging someone, she considers it her home and its members as a second family.

Inside my sister's home away from home... away from home.

Essentially, my mom wanted to take it easy, and she was adamant about walking through Abilene's downtown. Theoretically, downtowns are meant to be places of activities, the place where people walk around and shop and bask in the condensed masses of people, but now we have malls. And I probably don't need to remind you, but malls have air condition. In any case, we strolled around the series of historic red brick buildings with their wide open side walks and charming light posts. We browsed through a flag strutted Texas shop, where my mom preceded to act like she's never been inside a Texas store with it's mini longhorn purses, Texas sized [insert anything], and redneck birdhouses, wineglasses, and literature. To be fair, it was a large, impressive building with a variety of Texas memorabilia that far exceeded most Texas stores in malls, and they supported local and state wide wines, jams, and sauces. Eventually, we stumbled upon the downtown park, and we took pictures along the different art sculptures.

I would eat them in a box. I would eat them with a fox. Maybe.

On our little stroll, we noticed different Dr. Seuss banners, which was hyphenated by the downtown children's library display of the original pictures and colorings of 'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures, but each page was neatly framed and the book's entirety stretched along the open room's three walls, and since there was no one else around, my sister read through the entire book. And I listened. It's easy to marvel at the original pages, the prints of a book that's sold millions of copies and inspired an environmental movement, but even just witnessing the broad black strokes and the initial crayon palette made the children's book seem like highbrow works of art.


Afterwards, we visited the center of contemporary arts where they displayed different artwork by Theodor Geise, Dr. Seuss, throughout his lifetime. And even though his earlier work seemed more abstract, they were recognizably seussical. It's interesting to envision a cultural icon as a man and a method. Beyond creating art and advertising, he created a way to inform people, whether it was illustrating pamphlets about malaria during the war or teaching the essential lessons and guidance for children. Also, it's interesting to see the influence of World War II through his work such as Yertle the Turtle's characterization of Adolf Hitler. It's an adult writing for children on adult themes, and it's almost mind boggling to analyze the book subjectively since I, along with millions of other children, grew up with these books and lessons. And since I'm an adult, those lessons seems so intertwined with my upbringing that I couldn't imagine my life without them.

Unorthodox Taxidermy. Unfortunately, all of these species 
are either endangered and/or fictional.

Also, they had free 'Green Eggs and Ham' buttons, and I'm not sure if they were free, but I donated a couple dollars to compensate.

Since there weren't any interesting movies, besides 'Brave' which I've seen twice, we leisurely browsed through a book store and eventually watched television at my sister's apartment while we played on our separate tablets. It's easy to enjoy different vacation spots with families since there are so many different activities marketed toward children and teenagers and adults, but if we were honest with ourselves, the most we could hope to accomplish with our families would be to spend time with each other. And while we casually laid together on my sister's pullout futon watching the first two episodes of Gilmore Girls, I couldn't imagine a better way to spend time with my mom and sister or if I would change anything from my past if it meant compromising the people we've become.


It doesn't really fit into the context of this blog post, but on the next day, we went to the zoo and the prairie dog enclosure at the park. It was awesome, and more pictures were taken.

To be completely honest with you, my mom was so excited about feeding 
the fish that children and other families cautiously backed away from us.

Nom nom nom...

It's like he was trying to speak to me...
Ironically, my sister was sorted into Slytherin.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pupdate: Red (Spotted) Baron

Eat your heart out, Snoopy.
Remember, Dharma, there aren't any squirrels in the sky.
...I Hate Squirrels.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dog days of summer

Dharma wants me to go out more...

I rarely watch television, but there's a 'Merlin' marathon on BBC America. And if my previous tendencies prevail, I'll write about half a paragraph in a span of several hours if I continue watching it. I'd like to think of this weekend as a condensed version of my childhood summers, except without the slim sliver of a social life. Essentially, it was a lot of sleeping, television, and time with the dogs.

...because he really wants to sleep.

I'm selling myself a little short. My parents usually had a remodeling project around the house from fixing the deck to mending the backyard fences. And throughout my years in high school, I jogged a few miles in the evening with the cross-country team. To be completely honest with you, summer wasn't necessarily better than during the school year. But when the house didn't need any repairs and I happen to miss cross-country practice, I attempted to savor the sweet flavor of mind numbing boredom. I was a romantic. Logically, I thought that I would grow bored of doing nothing and I would be motivated to be more productive.

Unfortunately, I didn't take into account how good it felt to do nothing. Personally, I think I'm exceptionally good at doing nothing so it's not only relaxing, but it builds my self-esteem.

All kidding aside, I believe there are two forces struggling in our brains between relaxing and being productive. And even though we want to relax, we know that it's probably better to be productive.

Between coming into work for more training and driving my mom to the airport for my parent's vacation, I had about six hours of sleep in the span of two to three days. On the ride to the airport, my mom recalled the circumstances of their trip. A few months ago, my step-father had surgery on his one remaining eye, and for a few weeks leading into the surgery, my step-father was depressed that he might be blind for the rest of his life. One night, my mom walked in on my step-father staring at his motorcycle. Throughout the years, they've had several ventures across the country from the rolling hills of Texas to the air balloons in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to drive again; that part of his life would be completely over. Fortunately, the surgery went well, and they planned for another excursion in South Carolina. It was a second chance, and it's a reminder that we all have our chances daily.

Afterwards, I watched television. To be completely honest with you, I don't remember anything particularly interesting, but I watched a few Wimbledon matches, sitcoms, and cartoon shows. After a while, I started playing Bioshock, one of the most critically acclaimed video games of all time. Unfortunately, my gaming skills weren't particularly good enough to fully appreciate the game. It's very atmospheric with amazing sound design, pacing, and story-telling. And even though it's dark (literally and thematically), it's a video game that transcends its FPS genre into an immersive form of art.

 Believe it or not, they're easier to kill with rocket launchers...
like most living things.

On Sunday, I slept a lot. Honestly, I don't remember what happened, but I would assume there was an excess of television and video games. Sometime in the afternoon I transitioned from sleeping on the couch to sleeping on my bed, and along the way, I must have taken off my contacts. I guess that's modern form of self-preservation.

Yesterday, I went to Grapevine Mills Mall for business and pleasure. The hospital where I work is enforcing a new dress code, and Grapevine Mills is one of the very few malls with a uniform store. Also, they have a theater that's playing an independent film that I wanted to see. Let's not kid ourselves, I was primarily there to see the film. I always feel self-conscious whenever I walk around a mall alone, and even though Grapevine Mills was full of spectacles from grand department store signs to giant advertisement screens, I wasn't planning on randomly take pictures by myself.

Just imagine these stores with a lot more people.

While I walked around, I thought a lot about pictures and which fleeting moments of time that we choose to remember. I watched families roam from store to store and groups of teenagers straggle along benches and store fronts. And even though it's hard to deny the merits of a vacation or concert, these simple moments seemed worthy of being preserved. But no one was posing for pictures or hiding behind digital screens. Instead, they were living their lives and taking everything around them for granted, which was great.

I don't think it really matter how we spend our time as long as we appreciate its short and unlimited potential. When I was younger, there were times when I never thought a long summer day would ever end, and even now, the dogs have been literally staring at me in hopes that I'll do something to entertain them. Actually, they might need water, but I digress. Whether we're lounging around the house or casually grocery shopping, we can only hope to somehow make our short time here seem meaningful and savor it as long as possible.

And if you're currently on summer vacation, enjoy it. It goes by quickly.