Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Start of Something

During this year's Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, I'm highlighting things more people should know about. For the most part, I'll be ignoring the most popular and widely known items (and sometimes my personal favorites) in order to promote the unfamiliar and underappreciated.

Super-Sized Saturday Edition!

Slug-like aliens invade a small town. It's a bit gross, somewhat creepy, and fantastically funny, with great dialogue and Nathan Fillion as the sheriff. The ultimate in B-movie fun.
The Station Agent
When his only friend dies, Finbar (Peter Dinklage) moves into an abandoned train depot to enjoy a life of solitude, but it doesn't quite work out that way. Half hilarious comedy, half touching drama. 100% fantastic.
Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufman's most original script (and that's saying something). A troubled theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) creates a replica of NYC and his life in a warehouse, including actors playing him and actors playing the actors playing him. Challenging and bizarre, but fascinating.
Best true reality show ever. Led by ex-spies, 8 people go through standard espionage training and undertake increasingly tough assignments. Fail, and you go home. Sadly, only 1 season on BBC/PBS, and not on DVD.
Sports Night
From Aaron Sorkin, a brilliantly written and acted program following the drama of the people behind a third-rate evening sports show. And you don't need to know a lick of sports. With Robert Guillaume (a.k.a. Benson!), Felicity Huffman, and Peter Krause.
The State
Perhaps my favorite sketch comedy of all time. A bit more immature than Python, but I was in high school when I got hooked. Of course some sketches fail mightily, but at their best they're uproarious. (Sadly, the DVDs lack much of the original soundtrack for legal reasons, but it's still worth it.)
Settlers of Catan
The first German-style game to really hit it big in the U.S. Die rolls determine resources as you build settlements, cities, and roads. But the best part is the trading... in part because you get to say things like, "Does anyone have a sheep? I've got wood." (For 3-6 players. With a plethora of expansions.)
Small World
Choose a race/power combo and start taking over this over-crowded world. When you can expand no more, or your neighbors have begun killing you off, abandon them and choose a new race to do it all again. A wonderful strategy game for 2-5 players.
Like telephone, but with pencils. Only oh so much more fun. Illustrate a sentence; the next person sees just the drawing and provides a new caption; the next illustrates that; and so on. That's how we ended up with such things as "Jesus, crucified on a brontosaurus, crashes your wedding" and "I shall defeat dwarf Godzilla with my sword and eyebrows!" Absolutely hilarious.
Sufjan Stevens
It sometimes sounds like he's working with a high school orchestra, but that rawness is part of the charm. Whether reflecting personal explorations or aspects of a state's history, his songs will grab you. If nothing else, check out his finest album Illinois.
Sigur Rós
Their songs are light and ethereal, and I don't understand a single word. Which is exactly why this Icelandic band is ideal for when I'm writing: the lyrics will never interfere with my wordsmithing. Simply beautiful.
Formed by members of Okkervil River who wanted an outlet for softer stuff; their songs have a haunting, dreamlike quality to them, yet remain compelling and intense. Powerful stuff.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Bryson wanted to learn about the Earth and all manner of science, so he did, and he passes the knowledge onto us. With a great sense of humor, fun historical tangents, and a heap of intriguing information, this is a must read.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
What happens to people after they die? From grave robbing to scientific research to decomposition, Roach investigates all the (physical) possibilities, and her wry wit makes this an engaging and entertaining read.
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
In a world where color perception determines your place in society, a young Red man tries to better his future, but instead falls in love, angers powerful enemies, and stumbles upon a terrible secret. With terrific characters and world-building, and a twist that, try as I might, I did not see coming.

So, that's it for today (and thankfully so). See ya!


  1. Slither was an odd but fun movie. Anything with Fillion is worth a watch! And I was surprised how much I liked The Station Agent. Really good film.

    1. "Odd but fun" is one of my favorite types of movies. Or TV shows. Or music. Or anything.

      And yeah, The Station Agent. Stellar stuff.

  2. Slither was gross. Very, very gross. I only went to see it because of Nathan Fillion. It was funny and I laughed a lot but I also had to close my eyes a lot.

    Sports Night was a great show. Too bad it didn't last longer.

    1. Luckily, I've become desensitized to film grossness over the years, so I could focus on the fun. Although that certainly didn't keep me from thinking (or perhaps saying) "ew" multiple times my first viewing.

      And agreed on Sports Night. Another of the unjustly cancelled.

  3. I love Sports Night! I was sad it didn't go on any longer, I thought the writing on it was really great.

    I like Jasper Fforde, but I don't think I've read that one. Thanks for the suggestion!!

    In Which We Start Anew

    1. You're welcome, Jo. It's not quite as humorous (or as crazy) as the Thursday Next series, but I think the story is his best so far.

  4. Dude you have overloaded my brain with all those things. I never saw Slither but maybe now, late some Saturday night...maybe. that the movie that Hoffman has sex with Marisa Tomei?? If it is I liked it.

    I actually have some DVD's of the State but have not watched them yet...again, maybe some Saturday night...

    I have been listening to a lot of Euro-Rock bands for the last year, all flavors...I will check out Sigur...maybe some Saturday night...

    Hey, it's Saturday Night!!!

    1. I think the Tomei flick was Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which was also a fun flick. (And not nearly as bizarre.)

      Well, perhaps you caught one of those things last night. Or, if you didn't, I've heard Saturday night's also alright for fighting.

  5. Slither sounds awesome! I love funny B-grade movies.

    1. I love funny... well, anything. But when a movie knows it's a B-movie going in, those can be the best kind.

  6. I LOVED The Station Agent! I'm putting these in my Netflix queue.

    1. As long as you don't go in thinking they'll be at all like The Station Agent. Although Synecdoche does also have Michelle Williams in a supporting role, and The State has Joe Lo Truglio...

  7. Loved The Station Agent and I'm a huge fan of the Settlers of Catan. No one will play with me because I win too often! I'm just a lucky roller. Also, Bill Bryson is amazing. I love his books.

    1. My sister and I have the same problem with Scrabble (not the lucky roller part; the other part).Thus, we only get to play when we face off against each other. And yeah, I love everything I've read by Bryson... though A Short History is still my favorite.