04/2021

Friday, April 02, 2021

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

sincerely, e by Elizabeth and the Catapult:
The latest album from Elizabeth and the Catapult is pleasant pandemic-inspired fare (Rebecca backed the Kickstarter and we watched "living room concerts" every week up to the album's release). The first half is catchy but the last couple songs fade into an aural sameness that makes me tune out whenever I put the album on.

Final Grade: B-

Detectorists, Season Three:
The final season of Detectorists is a fitting ending for the story but it feels more like a regular British sitcom in its plotting and style -- it's not as whimsical and magical as the originals. We also got a little tired of the "magpie" mysticism that felt like a plot crutch.

Final Grade: B

Six: The Musical (Studio Cast Recording):
This musical that places Henry VIII's six wives in a Spice Girls singing competition is completely unnecessary but lots of fun. The lyrics are witty and the performances are great, although a few songs linger too long. The show was supposed to debut on Broadway the night that Broadway closed, March 12, 2020. Six kind of fills the same tonal neighborhood as the Broadway version of Moulin Rouge but feels a little more successful to my ears.

Final Grade: B+

Tenet:
The latest Christopher Nolan movie is Interstellar without any charisma. The general conceit is "reverse entropy" where some things in the world move backwards through time. The movie's full of interesting ideas, horrible sound mixing where the dialogue is impossible to hear, and an electronic soundtrack that overstays its welcome immediately. The last half of this 2.5 hour behemoth is where everything comes together and features some impressive action sequences and forward/reverse cinematography. I can tell that I would definitely catch some cool details on a rewatch (or 7) but I didn't care enough about the movie to want to do so. (Conversely, I've seen Memento at least 20 times over the years).

Final Grade: C+

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Monday, April 05, 2021

Weekend Wrap-up

On Saturday morning, we drove out to Alexandria to visit my parents. Maia, already in Easter mode, wore her Easter dress and brought along eggs to hide and find.

Egg hunts with Maia are different than typical egg hunts. She will hide all of the eggs, tell you that they're ready to be found, and then find them herself while leading you around the yard.

In the evening, we had a fire on our porch and ate leftover homemade pizza. We also relinquished care of the two guest cats and Amber is thrilled to be an only child again.

On Sunday, we dyed eggs and then spent the day in the backyard, hiding, finding, and burning things. We had egg salad sandwiches for lunch and then worked on trailblazing a semi-permanent trail through the common area.

In the evening, we grilled Worcestershire-marinated filet mignon on the grill and enjoyed yet another day with temperatures above 60 degrees.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Shot Day

I received my first dose of Pfizer through the county yesterday morning.

I registered in early March and got pinged to make an appointment this past Sunday, even though I'm not in a specific priority group. There must have been doses to spare -- western Loudoun vaccine hesitancy?

The whole process took place in the old Nordstroms at Dulles Town Center. The parking lot was packed to capacity, the operation sprawled across both floors of the Nordstroms, and the center was overflowing with helpful volunteers. I had a 20 minute wait in a constantly-moving line and one of the volunteers mentioned that they expected to do over four thousand shots that day. Soreness in my arm is comparable to a typical flu shot.

All in all, I'm a satisfied customer as long as I get the gift of flight, or maybe telekinesis, after the second dose.

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Friday, April 09, 2021

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

OK Orchestra by AJR:
AJR's latest release is pretty solid -- well-sampled beats with introspective lyrics about peoples' awkward younger years. BANG! is a good example.

Final Grade: B+

Utopia, Season One (UK):
We started this dark conspiracy show (the UK version not the more violent US remake) amidst a dearth of other TV options. It's fine when nothing else is on but not spectacular. Lots of exposition dumps slow down the pace and the characters aren't particularly interesting in their own right. We've been stalled on Episode 4 of 6 for weeks now and haven't had much incentive to pick it back up.

Final Grade: Not Rated

The Attractions of Youth by Barns Courtney:
I first heard of Barns Courtney through Glitter and Gold. This album is full of similar, catchy tunes.

Final Grade: B+

On to Something by Von Smith:
I picked up this solo album based on Von Smith's collaborations with Postmodern Jukebox. There are a lot of cool ideas in these songs yet none of them really "radio-ready" pop songs. Changing tempos and contrasting styles (within the same song) abound. Carnival of Life is a good example.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

6:06 AM: Showered and ready for work.
6:31 AM: Bagel for breakfast.
7:38 AM: Working.
8:59 AM: Distractions.
9:53 AM: Baking a cake.
11:44 AM: This might be heresy, but Giant substituted Kraft for Velveeta Shells and Cheese in our grocery order and it's cheaper, better, and has fewer calories.
1:20 PM: First mow of the year.
2:44 PM: Jumping so high.
3:30 PM: Playing DOOM: Eternal.
5:12 PM: "Look at me now. I'm makin' bunnies."
5:40 PM: Leftover ramen for dinner on the screen porch.
6:18 PM: Inspecting the circle trail we're building in the common area.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Release Day

Introducing the Official Website of Don Maitz!

Don Maitz is a Hugo-winning artist whose artwork has appeared in hundreds of classic fantasy and science-fiction books, including books by Stephen King, Raymond E. Feist, Gene Wolfe, and Michael Moorcock. He is also married to Janny Wurts, whose website I rewrote last summer.

With this makeover, all of my pandemic website projects come to a successful close, just in time for other kinds of new releases at the end of the month!

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Friday, April 16, 2021

Review Day: Doom: Eternal

I bought DOOM: Eternal in a Steam sale a few weeks back (just in time for the first weekend that Maia spent away from us in over a year) and dove right now. I found it better than its predecessor but suffering from many of the same flaws. I considered DOOM (2016) to be flawed but fun: it was enjoyable to run around killing things in the game and a good fan service from the original 90s series. However, I never actually finished that game because I'm a completionist: I hated missing secrets and having to replay levels to get them, or continuously try the minigame challenges over and over without success.

This new iteration feels a little less like the mindless fun of the originals, as careful resource management is required during a run to balance health, armor, and ammo. It also features an overwhelming number of weapons, weapon mods, and upgrades, all of which are thrown at you in the course of a single level near the beginning of the game. After being interrupted by the 20th screen describing a new technique I was supposed to learn, I almost stopped playing.

However, soldiering through that point is worth it -- I ended up focusing on a few of my favourite weapons and upgrades and ignoring the rest and had a great time all the way to the end. The game is at its best in the chaotic monster arenas where you get into a ballet-like flow of dancing around and blowing things up. The load times are also insanely fast (at least on an SSD) making deaths tolerable, and the framerate on the excellent graphics is rock solid at high detail levels.

Less positive are the numerous jumping puzzles that are interwoven through the arenas -- they're not hard, just tedious. The game also has a new defensive monster, the Marauder, who's easy to beat when following a pattern but breaks the hypnotic, kinetic "flow" so badly that the game is actually less fun when it's around. The story and cutscenes are unnecessary -- I skipped all of them after the first couple of levels.

Overall, this is a great single-player shooter that will give you a solid 20 hours of fun. I liked it enough on normal difficulty that I'll play it again on a harder level, at least until new children reduce my game time back to 0 again.

Final Grade: B

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