July 22, 2015

Amazon Fire TV Stick

To celebrate Amazon Prime Day I decided to give myself the gift of a $24.99 Fire TV stick. I am already the owner of an Apple TV, a Google Chromecast, and a LG smart TV. The smart tv has served its purpose over the last couple of years, but the interface is pretty terrible. That tv is mounted over the fireplace in the living room. We use it quite a bit so it was time for an upgrade. I didn’t want to add a box to it because I like the clean look of no cables. The Fire TV stick was a good fit and I wanted to try out Amazon’s streaming offering.

As a Prime member I get a lot of benefits from the Amazon ecosystem in addition to the free 2 day shipping; namely streaming tv and music. Our smart tv had a Amazon Prime app, and we used it quite a bit. The Apple TV obviously doesn’t offer any Amazon integration or we would use the streaming services even more[1]. Depending on your expectations, their selection of television shows and movies to be quite good. I always find something to watch on there[2].

The Fire TV is a significant upgrade from the built in smart tv offerings. I’d even say it is as-good-as our 3 year old Apple TV. That may not seem like high praise, but considering the price difference (and the fact that Apple is still selling the same model for $70), it means the Fire TV stick is quite good. For $25 it was definitely worth it. I wish that I would have bought one last year when they came out[3].

I definitely like the Amazon TV better than the Chromecast. From day one I have not been a fan of the Chromecast’s lack of interface and dedicated remote. We still use ours in the bedroom, and it works fine. It is easy to pull something up on your phone then cast it, but forget about trying to pause or navigate. For a main tv that gets a lot of use I would never want to use the Chromecast exclusively. Depending on what you want to do, it has its advantages, but I will probably never buy one again.

I think the only streaming box/stick/thingy I haven’t tried is the Roku. I’ve heard it is really good, but I don’t think I need anything else right away.

  1. The tv with the Apple TV also has a rarely used Sony PS3 connected. When I really want to watch something on prime I can always fire up the PS3.  ↩

  2. Like Justified, Orphan Black, The Americans, a bunch of HBO series, and several slightly older movies that I wanted to see but never had the time/motivation to go out and rent.  ↩

  3. When the Fire TV stick first came out prime members had a chance to preorder for $25. I didn’t do it.  ↩

July 19, 2015

True Detective Season 2

The first season of True Detective on HBO was 8 of the best hours of television I’ve ever watched. I had high expectations for season 2, which were promptly crushed in the first episode. I don’t know exactly what I wanted out of the new season, but what we’ve seen so far definitely hasn’t delivered.

I was glad to see the new season was going to completely different from the last. A new setting and a new cast of characters was the right way to go. Rust & Marty were interesting characters that could have been explored more, but I felt like their story was complete. True Detective Season One was so great because it focused on the relationship of the two leads. The True Detective S2 meme was defined by coming up with the two perfect actors to explore in the next season. It was a misstep for them to focus on four characters in season two. The lack of focus has made the show much less interesting.

The writing in season two has been awkward. It is the same set of writers so it makes me question the writing in the first season, which I thought was awesome. I feel like I should watch it again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. In S2 there has been at least one moment in each of the first four episodes that has made me cringe. The ridiculous things Rust Cole said felt honest and important. All of those moments in this season just feel corny and stupid. I’m not sure if it the writing itself or the shows inability to get me to buy in.

Having said that, I’m probably going to continue watching it. Today is the 5th of 8 episodes and I am committed enough to finish it out. I feel like each episode has been slightly better than the last. Hopefully that trend continues and they are able to put together a somewhat satisfying conclusion to what so far has been a bland story.

Update: I have now watched the 5th episode and I'm happy to say that the show continues to improve week after week. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like the awkwardness is subsiding and the story is getting better.

July 13, 2015

This makes a lot of sense...
Writing a journal feels juvenile. That is the beauty of it. Even as you write the words, you cringe in anticipation of how an older, wiser version of yourself will probably ridicule you later. You can almost hear the self-criticism, faintly echoing in from the future. That’s why the thoughts seem childish as soon as you transcribe them into alphabetic forms. 

Maybe this is exactly why journaling is important. It is a glimpse (or whisper) of your future perspective penetrating the present. You see your thoughts not only as you feel right now, but also as you might recall them later. As soon as your emotions inhabit a written work, they begin to exist outside of you. This creates a perspective that is invaluable — even if it is transitory and intermediate — and is worth all the supposed inward shame that comes along with writing your innermost thoughts down in the present.

July 9, 2015

TV Catch Up

Well here we are again. It has been months since my last post. Usually my excuse for not writing is that I hadn’t watched anything. That isn’t the case this time. I have watched a ton of stuff. I even made it out to the theater and saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I think the problem might be that writing about television and movies just hasn’t seemed interesting to me. In fact, writing in general has been low on my list lately. When something happens in my life my first instinct is usually to write it down for documentation; capture thoughts and feelings. A lot has gone on and I have let most of it pass by without putting a pen to paper. I might be over it now. I fee like writing again.

I have a big list tv shows I could write about. Rather than posting about each one separately I am going to do a quick rundown of the tv shows I’ve been watching…

There were a couple times I almost wrote about an individual episode of Game of Thrones, but by the time I got around to it another one was about to air and it just seemed pointless. Maybe I will try to organize my thoughts on season five as a whole and post something. In general I thought it was the weakest season of GoT so far even though it had some great moments.

I also watched the entire first season of Bloodline on Netflix. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see Kyle Chandler. It was good tv, but in the end it left me feeling a little unfulfilled. I would recommend it. It behooves the watcher to be more focused on the journey that worried about the destination, which I think the show promotes by how it is laid out. Most importantly, I am encouraged by the quality of Netflix’s original content.

Speaking of, I watched the first season of Chef’s Table. I like food. I enjoy documentaries. Chef’s Table was a winner in my book.

The real Netflix standout this spring was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was a ton of fun. My wife and I powered through all 13 episodes in record time. There were a few things that I didn’t like about the show, but overall it was still charming and funny. I would recommend it for sure.

The first season of Last Man On Earth on Fox was a rollercoaster ride. It started off so unique only to devolve into a standard, mediocre, and sometimes downright annoying comedy. It managed to finish off with a couple of decent episodes and I will probably tune in next year to see where it goes.

Fresh Off The Boat had a solid first season on ABC. I first few episodes were really funny. I didn’t enjoy the second half of the season quite as much, but it will definitely be on the watch list next year, assuming it comes back.

Silicon Valley on HBO has turned into one of my favorite comedies on tv. I watched all of season one just a few weeks before season two started, then watched it week-to-week. Sometimes I feel like it can try to be a little too clever, but then it always brings me back with a funny.

The final season of Justified aired this spring. I’ve written before than Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder were two of the best characters on television. I couldn’t wait to watch how their stories ended. Seeing a series you enjoy come to an end is always bittersweet. It was made especially so with Justified because I wasn’t sure there was a satisfying conclusion out there to be had. I enjoyed it, but as expected, the very end let me down. The storytelling seemed to get sloppy in the last half of the season, and it was capped off with a flash-forward that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Per the usual, I find a way to fall out of love with a show down the stretch, thus lessening the heartbreak once it is gone.

The best tv I’ve watched so far in 2015 has got to be FX’s Fargo. Even though I had heard really good things about the show I wasn’t expecting much. The series overall, but especially Billy Bob Thorton’s performance were awesome. I was completely mesmerized by his character. Thorton and Martin Freeman both made the show thoroughly enjoyable even when the pace was slow. I may even go back and watch it again if I get a chance. I rarely even consider doing that.

I watched a few other shows as well, but this is enough for now. I also have a pretty big list of movies that I haven’t written about. Catching up on that backlog feels like a chore, but maybe I will take a shot at it.