Five Things I Am Into Right Now, March 2012

It’s March in Michigan and you can feel the shackles of winter breaking all around us… To be replaced, of course, by the wet shackles of non-stop rainstorms. February and March are always such dreary months in the state of the mitten. Glen Phillips has a song that says “winter pays for spring.” Nah, in Michigan I can point to two overly depressing months as being the cost.

So usually, around this time of the year, I am drawn to lighter entertainment. This is not the time for a serious novel for me.  You won’t see one on the list. I’m looking for fun and comfort here. For example, just check out the first on my list:

Complete Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz (1979-1980)

It’s become a tradition for me and my mom. Every year, I get the box set for Christmas of the next two installments in the Complete Peanuts series. And each year around this time, these collections save me from the natural funk around me… Which is hilarious to consider since the world of Mr. Charles Brown is not exactly a nice place to live.

It’s cruel, it’s full of sarcasm, and your friends have no problem pulling a football from you, letting you land right on your back. Ouch.

I can’t begin to explain the impact of Schultz’s work on my life. My dad used to collect the books back in the sixties, and I would read his old collection at my grandparents’ house; sneaking a book home from time to time. Did Schultz teach me to read? No, but his books did inspire me to learn faster. So reading Peanuts is a part of who I am. It connects me to my past, and especially to those moments on my grandparents couch with a pile of the books and a small bowl of popcorn nearby.

The Calypso Music of Harry Belafonte

Chalk this up as my crazy entry for the month, but I can’t get enough of this music. Like everyone else on the planet, I knew “The Banana Boat song.” It’s my son’s favorite song right now, and it led me to discovering two of his early albums: Calypso and Jump Up Calypso.

Calypso is the album most people know because of “The Banana Boat song,” but really I think the song “I Adore Her” far superior… Of course, my son can’t shout “Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch!” during that song.

The thing I am floored by is that Jump Up Calypso is not even in print right now. I had a dog of a time trying to find it via my local library, but this album is so much fun. It breathes fun. You smell that? That is the smell of fun.

I can’t remember the last time I found an album that just made me smile. Yes, it’s silly and some of the songs are over the top, but none of that takes away from the enjoyment of the album. Check out “Jump in the Line” and “Angelina.” Yeah, I love this album.

There is also an interesting contradiction to the album. While the album contains a religious song, it also contains one of the most anti-missionary messages I have ever heard. Seriously, there is a song called “Goin’ Down Jordan” which is all about missionaries using food to trick starving people into finding God and none of the people know what they are agreeing to. It ends with the singer being a priest but his reasoning is he is well fed and they treat him good. Hilarious and slightly disturbing all at once.

Final Fantasy XIII-2

After the awful inappropriateness of Final Fantasy X-2 (and for the fans out there, they know what I mean), I was hesitant to get the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII.

What added to the apprehension is that XIII is not the strongest title in the series. Yeah, visually it is stunning, but the story was a mess and the characters didn’t really capture your imagination like they do in VII, VIII, X, and XII. Not even the music seemed up to their high standard. If X-2, was a sequel to a great title, what would the sequel be like to XIII?

Well, pretty good, actually. Yeah, I like it.

It has an interesting story structure, which is a fluid chapter style (You can jump between different stories, much like the characters jump through time). Could you call it post-modern? Yeah, probably. But what the game really has going for it, is that it takes what we know from XIII and builds on it; justifying what we slowly went through in XIII.

One thing I love (and this might be because I am a parent), I don’t feel overly burdened by the plot. I don’t feel overwhelmed to play every night. I can come back to it when I have time and not feel like I need a lot of catching up. While, yes, I like to be taken away by a story, right now this is a relief… and frankly, it is slick game. Just slick.

To Kill a Mockingbird on Blu Ray

Have I mentioned I have a Harper Lee connection? For about five years, I had the same literary agent as Ms. Lee. Yes, we shared agents… and during that time, neither of us had new books published. Ha!

OK, To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite films. Easily, in the top five if not around the top two (It is hard to knock down Casablanca in my heart). I don’t know how this film does it, but it “gets” me every time. When Scout sees Boo Radley in the room and says “Hi Boo…” I’m tearing up now. Give me a second… Every time, I swear, this happens, every time.

This is the third re-release of the film I have purchased and the transfer is stunning. This Blu Ray, just during the opening credits, justified my TV and blu ray player purchase two years ago.

If you are at all interested in the book or Harper Lee, I recommend the documentary Fearful Symmetry on the disc. It is wonderful. Definitely not a “filler” like you get on a lot of movie discs. I would purchase the disc just for this documentary on the history of the book and film.

Game of Thrones on Blu Ray

I don’t need to say more about the TV series. Everyone has already taken on the series, and while I think it has its pluses and minuses (I actually wrote my own opinion on the book series here), it is a lot of fun and has the same addictive quality that makes the books so dangerous.

So why is this on my list?

For the wonderful last bonus disc.  See, the last disc contains a series of animated shorts called “The Complete Guide of Westeros.”

Thank you HBO and whoever went to the trouble of making these little animated shorts. Thank you. Thank you.

Everything makes sense to me now about the history and the mythology. A few of the minor questions I have had are gone now. While I have still no idea where the series is going, I know where it has been. And for those that know the books know the importance that the characters put on the past in their world.

Now I can return to counting down the days to the premiere of Season 2.

3 thoughts on “Five Things I Am Into Right Now, March 2012

    • Awesome! And it’s too bad he didn’t make more albums like the two calypso albums. I did some listening to other stuff, but none of it was as fun or as carefree as these earlier works. Of course, you can’t even find one of the albums I listed in print, so it might just be me.

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