Some random, useless and irrelevant things I've enjoyed recently. Just be warned that you should always consider the source when someone is recommending you something.
Talons - Hollow Realm: The first great album of 2011 is an all instrumental release from this punk band. I was familiar with their self titled release, but had no idea they had this sort of ambition in them. Complex, hard and, at times, beautifully majestic in it's execution. Their one flaw was their coarse lead singer and they've found a sure way around that problem: don't sing. Brilliant!!
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast: A bizarre, yet addicting, mix of sunny California alternative pop with darkly humorous lyrics. Test drive a few of their tunes now because you'll be hearing a lot of them soon.
....And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead - Tao of The Dead: I had my doubts after 'Century of Self' nearly put me to sleep, but Trail of the Dead (can they change their name already?) returns in top form with this release. Nice that they (mostly) strip things down and get back to the basics. Still can't help their excessiveness, but it doesn't overwhelm.
The Chicago Code: I already brushed over this last week, but I've caught up and realized the show is getting better and better. Yes, the lead detective is singularly obsessive and needs to lighten up (more details about how he's balancing the fiancee and ex wife might help), but the story is involving and Delroy Lindo is the most lethally charismatic character to land on television in years. It helps enormously that they film this on location in Chicago and they (so far) have been putting the city to great use.
Mr Sunshine: Not a classic by any means, but Matthew Perry was smart enough not to cast himself as a nice guy here; instead playing a narcissistic manager of a second rate sporting arena. Having Allison Janney on hand as his 'doesn't give a shit' boss and Andrea Anders from 'Better Off Ted' certainly helps. I laugh out loud at least twice an episode.
House: I've remained a loyal viewer, but this show has seen better seasons and I was dismayed when the writers romantically involved House and Cuddy. You can imagine my gratefulness that House has remained as crass and complicated as ever. The last two episodes in particular have tapped into the original charm of both the character and the show. House conning his way into a private school in order to help Cuddy's daughter gain acceptance is one of the best episodes of the past three years.
Perfect Couples: This new sitcom following 'Community' is funnier than it has any right. Like 'Mr. Sunshine' this isn't terribly original, but it's filled with likable actors portraying characters most of us recognize from our own experiences. The rich, pushy one trying to get everyone to buy into his 'Man Cave' concept is the highlight so far and has me believing in '40 Hands' as a legitimate party concept.
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak: An adopted girl grows up in Nazi Germany and we hear of her progress through Death. Right. The Grim Reaper is the narrator, although he/she hates being called that and finds it amusing how we dress up as him/her on occasion. The story is involving, the writing exhilarating and it's that rare book that I can't wait to get back to.
The Good Soldiers - David Finkel: Finkel follows an infantry troop throughout their tour of duty in Iraq. This all takes place during what the Bush Administration labeled 'The Surge' and it has forever altered how I view this (or any) war. Finkel doesn't commentate, merely tells the story of soldiers trying to do their best under hostile, hopeless circumstances. His chapter on the recovery of a soldier so grievously wounded from a bomb blast will haunt me forever. Every President considering declaring war for any reason should be required to read this book first. On second thought, it should be required reading for everyone.
Sadly, I haven't seen any recent movies that I would recommend. I did watch 'The Spy Next Door' and 'The Karate Kid' (which wasn't terrible) with my boys but it just made me depressed over Jackie Chan's career transformation.
Today's distraction: Amazing photos from an expedition to the Nyiragongo Crater in Africa.