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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Now Is a Good Time to Invest in These 3 TV Comedies

Source: Mashable

As we move into May, there are a lot of great TV shows to choose from… but a lot of those great shows are ones that you had to invest in a long time ago if you want to enjoy them now. Online streaming has obviously made it easier for people to binge-watch and get caught up, and I’m all for people marathoning shows that are part of the cultural zeitgeist, but I also know there are a lot of people out there who don’t feel like catching up with Mad Men while it’s entering its last season or getting into Game of Thrones now that it’s 4 seasons and 5,000 characters in.

For the more casual TV viewers, I’d like to offer up some safer but still rewarding investments: 3 comedies that you can watch now without making a huge time commitment or having to memorize 50 back stories.

Read the rest of this entry


Quiz: Which Victorian Bogeyman Are You?

1. What do you have an appetite for?

  1. Murder
  2. Mass hysteria
  3. Pies
  4. All of the above

2. You’ve got a night to yourself. You spend it:

  1. Lurking in the shadows
  2. Skulking in the shadows
  3. Shadowing other people’s shadows
  4. Seeing Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

3. If you have a flaw—IF being a key word—it’s probably that you:

  1. Care too much
  2. Care too little
  3. Are too hard on yourself
  4. Can’t stop, won’t stop

4. You’re lost in the big city, a la Macauley Culkin in Home Alone 2. What do you do?

  1. Solicit ladies of the night for directions; waggle eyebrows
  2. Hardcore parcour; scale the tallest building so I can get my bearings
  3. Make the best of the situation and establish a local business (this is your home now)
  4. Use Google maps? Or is this supposed to be what I’d do in Victorian times?

5. Surprise Rorscach test! Pretend you’re looking at an ink blot (use your imagination, okay?). What does      it resemble?

  1. The dark hole where your heart should be
  2. Your hero, Batman
  3. Clumps of hair on a barber shop floor
  4. I can just say anything? Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, I guess

6. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, it would be:

  1. Blood oranges. Or blood pudding. Blood something.
  2. Pop Rocks
  3. Hormel’s chill, high-sodium edition
  4. What?! Those are all horrible questions. I don’t understand what this quiz is supposed to reveal.

7. Your perfect date involves:

  1. Sparkling conversation, a carriage ride, a well-aged Cabernet
  2. Putt Putt, skinny dipping, Miller Light
  3. A home-cooked dinner, talking late into the night, a nice port
  4. Wait, isn’t this quiz about Victorian bogeyman? How is any of this relevant?

8. Let’s follow up with this date thing. If your first date goes well, what do you do for the second date?

  1. I don’t do second dates
  2. Something spontaneous
  3. Hesitate before calling, mumble something about having a good time and maybe going to a museum opening
  4. Dinner and a movie, I guess, but why does this matter?

9. You’re taking a quiz about Victorian bogeyman. How do you feel?

  1. Thrilled; I believe personality quizzes can reveal secrets buried deep inside ourselves
  2. Ecstatic; learning more about myself is my favorite activity
  3. Overjoyed; I’ve always wanted to know which Victorian villain I am
  4. Frustrated with the direction this quiz has gone

10. We’re almost done here. Last question, which is also the most important one. Which of these words most speaks to you?

  1. Verisimilitude
  2. Rapscallion
  3. Harbinger

Now On To the Results!

Mostly A’s: You’re Jack the Ripper

Congratulations—you’re one of history’s greatest monsters! You’re enigmatic and don’t often let people get close to you, but that’s only because you’re worried you’ll get hurt (or arrested and executed for all the horrific atrocities you’ve committed). You also have a tendency towards being a perfectionist, whether you’re wielding a sharpened knife or studying for that important midterm. You need to learn to let things go. Take a break from murdering, or studying, or whatever it is that’s been stressing you out.

Mostly B’s: Your Spring-Heeled Jack

Well bust my buttons, you’re that devilish specter that many a Londoner reported leaping about the city throughout the 19th century. You’re a kid at heart, and you find play much more important than work. You’re also an athlete, and you need an outlet for your energy or else you go a little crazy. Some people think there are times you should tone it down, like when you pulled that prank at the company Christmas party last year and it didn’t go over very well. Maybe find a better use for your energy, like hot yoga?

Mostly C’s: You’re Sweeney Todd

I say, you’re the spitting image of the demon barber of Fleet Street! You may have struggled with your original business, but you’ve gone on to become a role model for other entrepreneurs dreaming of a midlife career change. You’re a hard worker, and when you set your mind to something then by golly, you’ll achieve it (no matter how devious it is). You’re a textbook case of a self-made individual, but sometimes you take yourself a little too seriously, you know? Relax. Sit back and enjoy the meat pies while you can.

Mostly D’s: You’re Potpourri Charlie

You got Potpourri Charlie because you’re a little bit all over the place, aka you refused to participate in this quiz the way you were supposed to. I know, I know, you’re probably saying that you finished the stupid quiz and just answered ‘D’ a bunch, but you knew that wasn’t how it was supposed to go. You had the opportunity to learn more about Victorian history and—dare I say it—yourself, but you blew it, and now you get to be a non-descript Victorian bogeyman that I, the quizmaster, just made up. Buzzfeed would be ashamed of your quiz-taking attitude.


Literary Pro Wrestling Match-Up #1: Chain Austen vs. Edith Warhorse

Note: A while back I was trying to brainstorm article topics, but all I could come up with were literary-themed pro wrestling and/or roller derby names. I think I was sleep-deprived. This is the resulting post.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single professional wrestler in position in the ring must be in want of a pummeling… by legendary Regency era firecracker Chain Austen.

Chain Austen isn’t interested in anything except her opponent’s punch and punchability, and this week she’ll be testing her mettle against defending Literary Pro Wrestling champ, Edith Warhorse.

Don’t let the defending champ’s affluent appearance fool you—this rough and tumble lady didn’t grow up in no age of innocence. Edith Warhorse honed her skills on the mean streets of New York, and she’s spent years perfecting her legendary roundhouse of mirth. This Friday, she’ll be doing her best to send Chain Austen back from whence she came—the English countryside.

It’s going to be more than just a comedy of manners when Chain Austen and Edith Warhorse go bonnet-to-bonnet in the ring. Chain Austen’s former adversary, F. Scott Fistgerald, has said, “Pointed, barbed, cutting to the core… and I’m not just talking about Chain Austen’s witty dialogue. She snuck hogwire and a dagger into the ring for our match. That woman will shank you.”

Meanwhile, Edith Warhorse’s notorious rival, Salman Crushdie, has said of his opponent, “She brings a crushing realism to the ring. And her dramatic irony, dear God. She makes you see how fucked up society is until you can’t even go on anymore. Plus she hit me with a chair when I wasn’t looking.”

So who will prevail—New York’s own 20th century Buccaneer of the British whirlwind who is prepared to Mansfield Park her opponent in the dirt? Tune in next Friday as Chain Austen and Edith Warhorse take it to the grindhouse.

4 Southern Gothic Books to Read Post-True Detective

As is my usual practice with popular TV shows, I hold out for a few months, then decide to watch the pilot just to see what all the fuss is about, then fall into an antisocial state of binge-watching that show for the next several days/weeks. The latest show to suck me into its orbit was True Detective, which thankfully only has one manageable 8 episode season so far. I didn’t think I’d like the show at first because I’m not usually a big fan of police procedurals, but I got on board when I realized that True Detective isn’t so much a crime-solving show as it is a Southern gothic novel in TV form.

Southern gothic, for those who don’t get as excited as me when it comes to defining genres, is a style of writing that typically follows flawed characters as they navigate through dark or sinister events in the American South. Sometimes there’s magic involved, often there’s a folklore element, and there’s almost always some kind of decay (of buildings, society, what have you). Basically, the Southern Gothic Wikipedia page should just have a giant picture of True Detective on it by now.

So for those who watched True Detective and discovered that they’ve been latent Southern Gothic fans this whole time, I’m going to throw out a few book recommendations. Important note: I’m not claiming to be an expert in the genre, and I’m not writing a “Best Southern Gothic Novels Ever” list. I’ll admit that I haven’t even read any novels by William Faulkner, which is a pretty big oversight on my part. However, I know what I like, and these are 4 books that have really stood out to me.

Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor

Every time I picked up this book I sort of felt like I had a high fever and was suffering hallucinations, but in the best possible way. There’s just something so off-kilter about this novel, which features a blind preacher, an unpredictable teenage zookeeper, a man bent on sharing the gospel of anti-religion, and a teenage nymphomaniac, among other characters. Fans of True Detective will appreciate the themes of faith and illusion, and everyone should appreciate a particularly bizarre scene involving a gorilla costume.

Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote

I guess the obvious choice for a Truman Capote book on this list would be In Cold Blood, but truth be told, I enjoyed Other Voices, Other Rooms more. I think what appealed to me most was the setting of the derelict Mississippi mansion and the sensitivity with which Capote writes 13-year-old protagonist Joel Harrison Knox and the characters who surround him. While In Cold Blood is a “true crime” novel that takes a more journalistic tone, Other Voices, Other Rooms is partially autobiographical and gives the reader an interesting look at the author’s background. If the character development was what you liked best about True Detective, read this.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt

I read this book when I was probably too young for it (12-year-old me learned a lot about drag queen culture in Savannah), but I still loved it. While it’s based on a true murder case, it reads like a novel and is so addicting that it shouldn’t take long to finish. Berendt paints such vivid pictures of the characters and the settings that I felt like I was a member of the Savannah, Georgia community by the end. If you liked the fleeting moments of humor that popped up amidst the darkness of True Detective (mostly stemming from Rust’s eccentricities) then you may enjoy the blending of light and dark in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Coiled in the Heart, Scott Elliott

Full disclosure: Scott Elliott was one of my English professors at Whitman College, so there may be some bias here, but I still think fans of True Detective will enjoy Coiled in the Heart. The novel follows Tobia Caldwell, a man who is haunted into adulthood by the fact that he caused a neighbor boy’s snakebite death when the two of them were young. To complicate matters further, Tobia is in love with that neighbor boy’s twin sister. The book is full of ghosts, fading Southern families, untamed nature, antebellum mansions—basically everything you could ask for in a Southern Gothic novel.

Bonus Book: Waterland, Graham Swift

I can’t officially call this book a “Southern Gothic” recommendation because it’s not set in the South—it’s set in the marshes of East Anglia. However, Waterland is one of my all-time favorite novels and features a lot of Southern Gothic elements, including a rural setting, a “cursed” family, and multiple doomed romances. Somehow, it manages not to be melodramatic. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’ll just say check it out while you’re waiting for another show to fill the True Detective void.