Reading improves writing, just ask Mr. King.

Before I took my blog hiatus I had a lot of issues actually finishing books. I would start one, get part way through, run low on time, set it aside, and repeat. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the books — I just never felt like I had the time to devote to reading one. But after I started my blogging hiatus, and before I started NaNoWriMo, I finished four books. FOUR. I was really proud of myself, and it felt good. And even through NaNo, I made sure to keep reading. Partly because of one of the books I read: “On Writing” by Stephen King.

Mr. King pointed out that people can’t be good writers without reading, and that every time you read, you were studying the craft of writing. After reading that, something clicked. I figured if I couldn’t make time for reading, my writing wouldn’t ever improve. (Remember, I was trying to write my novel at this point.) Since then, I’ve made a point to make time to read nearly every day. And I want to continue, so I decided to integrate my reading into the blog, instead of adding something extra to my to-do list. So every month, I’ll go through and comment on all the books I read and listened to. (I listen to audio books at work a lot to pass the time… it’s great!)

So without further ado, here are the books I finished in January.

The bookstore had just gotten it in when I asked for it — they hadn’t even put it on the shelves yet!

“The Shining” by Stephen King. I got “Doctor Sleep” for Christmas, so I decided I needed to actually read “The Shining” before reading its sequel. And I’m very glad I did. I’ve only seen the movie once, and even though it was enjoyable it wasn’t as scary or memorable as I expected, given the cult following the movie seems to have. Since reading “On Writing”, I’ve been on a Stephen King kick, so I was excited to read one of his most famous works. And it didn’t disappoint. It was significantly different from the movie in several ways. The biggest and most important were the differences in Jack, Danny and Wendy Torrance. The characters are much deeper and more developed, and King makes sure the reader understands exactly why the human characters make their decisions. And in the book I would also count the hotel as a character itself. The ghosts and creepy phenomenons are clearly controlled by the hotel, which is a much more sinister character in the book, and not just a creepy setting. But to be clear, I’m not saying the movie was a bad adaptation. It is not. But there is so much depth to the book, it would be almost impossible to have translate it to the screen. King’s detail is incredible, his writing is easy to follow, and the plot it ingenious. I found myself understanding and feeling sorry for the Torrences more so than I did watching the movie. And I also found myself getting more spooked than I did while watching the movie. Overall, “The Shining” was riveting, entertaining and very enjoyable. (Also, for those who have seen the movie: it even ends differently! And Wendy is supposed to be a hot blonde…)

I didn’t see the face at first…

“Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King. I started “Doctor Sleep” almost immediately after finishing “The Shining” and finished it in less than a week. I read it every spare moment I had, and stayed up much later than I should have multiple times. So you know I thought it was good. “The Shining” touched on little Danny Torrence’s ability to see ghosts, know what his parents were thinking, and other crazy things. But they weren’t really the focus of the book. They were important, yes, but not as important as they are in “Doctor Sleep”, where the powers are actually the center of the novel. I also particularly enjoyed that “Doctor Sleep” tied up some loose ends left by its prequel (what happened to Danny and his mom?), and showed the effects of Danny’s childhood had on his life. On some levels, it’s easy to tell the two books were written years and years apart, but I think it added to the story. King isn’t the same author he was when he wrote “The Shining”, and it adds to the story. After all, Danny isn’t the same boy he was. Both lived many years in between the novels. But anyways, as a story “Doctor Sleep” is very different than “The Shining”, and I think I liked it more. It was dramatic, entertaining and scary, but not because of ghosts. Instead, King created new human-like monsters who murder little children. Scary, but not in the same way the Overlook Hotel was. A more real scary, in my opinion. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil it, but the little girl Danny helps, Abra, is spunky and likeable… even if she’s a little intense at times. And she’s even more powerful than Danny was as a kid, which is pretty incredible. Overall it was a quick read, fun and very good.

A very long audio book…

“A Clash of Kings” by George R. R. Martin. I started listening to the audiobook version on Audible back in… November? I don’t remember when I started, but I finally finished it in January. I had tried to read it on multiple occassions, but I would always end up setting it aside for something else… or nothing else. I just couldn’t get through it. Probably because I’m completely caught up with HBO’s “A Game of Thrones”, so I knew mostly what happened in the book. And I’m not really a huge fan of George R. R. Martin’s writing style. But the audiobook turned out to be manageable, and a good way to pass time at work. Unfortunately, I still got bored listening to it, which is why it took me so long to finish. I’d often choose to listen to MTG podcasts and streams instead. I finished it, though, and so far the next one is far more entertaining. Not that I didn’t like the story in “A Clash of Kings” … I really enjoy HBO’s adaptation, and think that, for the most part, it’s a good story. I just also think it was longer than it really needed to be, and that Martin adds a lot of things I really don’t care about. Who knows, though, maybe they’re important later. But right now I think all of his books are much longer than they really need to be.

So that’s it. Those are the books I finished in January. Only three, but that’s definitely better than September, when I think I barely finished one. I’m obviously on a Stephen King kick at the moment (I’m currently reading “The Green Mile”), but it’s only cause he’s great.

What did you read this month? Any suggestions for February?

All for now,
Bale

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A healthier life.

There are a bunch of stereotypes when it comes to nerds, and they’re not all positive. We’re some of the nicest, coolest people you could ever meet, but unfortunately that’s not necessarily what people first think of when someone is described as a ‘gamer’. What often comes to mind is an overweight man, sitting in front of a game console or computer, with a bunch of soda and junk food surrounding him as he takes on the next level. And the stereotype isn’t that much different for MTG players or for girls, either.

I don’t like this. But stereotypes exist for a reason, and because a lot of nerdy hobbies are sedentary in nature it makes sense that we may not be as active or healthy as the athletes of the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t be, though; obesity is almost entirely preventable. In a wonderful article, “The Health of Magic”, level three judge Riki Hyayshi addressed this issue. Obesity is a huge issue in today’s society (according to the World Health Organization 35% of adults aged 20 and over were overweight in 2008, and 11% were obese, and being obese or overweight kills more people than being underweight), but it’s a difficult topic to breach with people, and an even harder one to fix.

In his article, Hyayshi points out that MTG is very sedentary in nature. Players spend hours sitting around play testing for tournaments, playing in tournaments, reading articles, playing MTGO or watching streams, etc. And the same can be said for people who love video games, reading, playing board games and a myriad of other nerdy activities. Despite being invigorating for the mind, they’re often very lazy for our bodies. Plus, let’s face it: reading the end of a good book is way more fun than going to the gym. I’m definitely guilty of prioritizing the former above the latter. And it’s not just our hobbies that are influencing our health. I have a full-time job where I have to sit in front of a computer screen all day. Definitely sedentary. So there goes 40 hours of my week devoted to sitting around. What happens to the rest of the time? Well, I try to write every day… that’s sedentary. I go to FNM every week… that’s pretty sedentary. And I play MTG outside of FNM and read. A lot. Most of my hobbies nowadays are not very physical. But I still try to go to the gym. It’s not always easy, but I learned my lesson my freshman year of college.

I was very active growing up. I played outside a lot, played soccer for while, and I took ballet from age 5 through high school. In high school I was at my studio nearly every day, and I loved it. Unfortunately, when I went off to college that stopped. I didn’t have enough open credits to enroll in the ballet classes offered at my school, and I didn’t have the time, or money, to find a local studio to dance at. I tried to go to the gym, but after they closed the pool I stopped going. I hated running, and I felt ridiculous. So I just stopped. And by the time I went home for the summer I noticed that I’d gained a lot of weight. Going from doing hours of physical activity every day to almost none was horrible. That, combined with the unhealthy habits of a college student, wreaked havoc on my body. But luckily, I had some great inspiration to help me get back on track: my mom. After my twin sister and I left for college, she had more time on her hands than she’d had in ages, and she worked hard all year to get in shape. When I arrived home, she looked great. The best she’d looked for almost as long as I could remember, in fact. She also felt great. And I felt terrible.

So even though I had a full-time internship that summer, I invested myself in the effort to get back in shape. My mom got me a membership to her gym, and she encouraged me and went with me. It was hard, but I slowly started to gain more confidence while at the gym. I lifted weights and did both the elliptical machine and the treadmill. At home, I made sure to eat healthy — something I hardly had to worry about in high school — and I always packed a healthy lunch for work. And everything worked, I gradually lost most of the weight I’d gained. I didn’t lose all of it, but that was OK. I was healthier, stronger and happier. And when I went back to school I continued to try to fit in gym time as much as I could. It was never easy, but it always felt good.

That’s what I try to remind myself when I don’t want to go to the gym: it’s worth the time and the effort. Not just for my physical health, but my mental health, too. I’m always more confident and happier when I’ve been good at going to the gym. Unfortunately, working out is always the easiest thing to cross off of a busy to-do list. Life gets in the way a lot, but it’s important not to let it. (And as I edit this post months after I started it, I am very guilty of letting life, the holidays and everything in between get in my way.)

Even though I didn't go to the gym over the holidays, I did make some delicious (and fairly healthy) treats. I also made a lot of unhealthy treats... but it WAS the holidays.

Even though I didn’t go to the gym over the holidays, I did make some delicious (and fairly healthy) treats. 

Hyayshi and I share the opinion that we need to start promoting healthier lifestyles throughout the MTG and gamer communities. As I said above, nerds are some of the nicest, most caring and wonderful people in the world. The games we play enrich our lives, so why not make sure our lives last as long as possible? Of course, it’s hard to broach the topic with people without hurting their feelings or offending them, which is totally understandable. Nobody wants to hear they’re overweight, and often they already know it. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is take care of yourself. Promote a healthy lifestyle by living it. Going to a game night? Bring healthy snacks. Show the people around you what a positive change living a more active, healthier lifestyle can be. Share articles like Hyayshi’s for motivation. In the end, living a healthy lifestyle is up to the individual. But communities like MTG can encourage individuals through, as Hyayshi recommends, promoting a culture of fitness at home. Let’s shake those unhealthy stereotypes, and really take the time to treat our bodies well. After all, they’re what really get us through the marathon tournaments!

My plan to start living healthier is simple: get back into the routine of going to the gym three times a week, start cooking more meals at home, and pack healthy snacks for FNM. In an effort to try new meals, I am participating in Reddit’s r/52weeksofcooking, which gives a category each week for you to find and prepare a meal from. I’m going to blog about the challenge in an effort to hold myself accountable, share the experience, and encourage others.after all, the only way to get better at cooking is to practice, and practicing helps make healthy habits.

So here’s to being healthy and breaking stereotypes in 2014!

All for now,
Bale

2014: A new year, a new start, a better NerdMaids

New Year's fireworks above Pikes Peak.

New Year’s fireworks above Pikes Peak.

Alright guys, I admit, that break was much longer than I initially intended it to be. It’s been a busy few months, though, and I’ve gotten a lot of things done, and even more ideas written down.

November was actually filled with writing: I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time, which was a fun and rewarding experience. I didn’t quite get to 50,000 words, but I got really close at 44,000. By the end I was worn out and writing crap (or what I remember thinking was crap, I haven’t actually gone back and reread it), which wasn’t what I wanted to do. I know, I know, the first draft of anything isn’t great… but I have standards people! I’m both excited and nervous to start reading the story I came up with, and hopefully editing it to something presentable.

December was my true break from writing. And with the holidays and a trip to my parents, it was really busy but rejuvenating. It was truly a break from real life, and it was wonderful.

January, so far, has been very eventful. Canceled flights, car accidents and an apartment flooding started of the year for me and Astro. But, I won’t go into that here. Everything is fine now, and we’re both happy to be getting back to normal.

That also means I’m very ready to start fresh and get back into the routine of writing. NaNo proved that I enjoy writing everyday and it really makes me happy. I think the pressure of publishing something three times a week was what was holding me back before. I’ve also been doing fantastic at FNM, so I don’t plan on continuing my FNM recaps every week, opting for more general MTG posts with a little self reflection because I think I was thinking more about the blog at FNM than my matches… not really that great.

So, my plan from here is to post twice a week: once about MTG or board games or whatever, and once about my 52 weeks of cooking challenge. (More on that later. It’s going to be awesome, though!) Then at the end of the month, in an effort to keep up my reading, I’m going to post about the books I’ve read that month. A total of nine posts a month, which seems more doable than 12. I’m not going to set a day of the week for the posts, I’m just going to write them naturally. And I even have a couple ready to go, like my initial plan said. I’ve stuck to my word on that point.

The biggest change will be the shifting emphasis from my FNM recaps, which were previously the backbone of the blog, to a more general blog about my passions, most of which are still very nerdy. I’m very excited for everything I will be writing, and I really hope you all will be there for the ride.

All for now,
Bale.

I read banned books.

Most-Dangerous-Man-Image-2-800

This week is National Banned Books week, which is dedicated to raising awareness about censorship and celebrating the freedom to read.

Each year the American Library Association compiles a list of the most challenged books of the year. At the top of this year’s list is “Captain Underpants”, a graphic novel about a couple fourth graders who bring their favorite superhero to life by hypnotizing their principal. I read it a long time ago, and thought it was just entertaining. But apparently some parents think it’s inappropriate because of “offensive language” and it is “unsuitable for the age group”. REALLY? I read it and I turned out JUST FINE. Promise.

But seriously. There are a lot of books on the list over the years that really surprised me. I’ve only read “Captain Underpants” and “Kite Runner” from this year’s list, but looking back there are some of my favorite books that have been challenged by small-minded people. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of my absolute all-time favorite books, and it appears multiple times. Same with “Catcher in the Rye”, “My Sister’s Keeper”, “Of Mice and Men” and even the “Harry Potter” books.

Here’s this year’s list:

2012

Out of 464 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

— American Library Association

I grew up reading every book I could get my hands on, and my parents encouraged it. Reading is one of the best ways to expand world views and introduce new ideas. Basically, reading is a great way to challenge your ideas of the world. And that scares people. But everyone should be able to read every book ever. ESPECIALLY in the US, where we have the First Amendment and the expectation of free speech and freedom of expression. Which means, to me, everyone should be able to read whatever they want and schools should support that.

Especially if it challenges your beliefs.

All for now,
Bale

What is your favorite banned book? Which banned book surprises you that it’s on the list? 

Addicted to Charmed.

Several years ago, one of my very good friends told me about Charmed. She said it was among her favorite shows ever, which meant it was almost as good as Gilmore Girls. This was high praise: She has most of the seasons of Gilmore Girls, and at the time we were working our way through them. But, since I was so engrossed in Lorlai and Rory’s world at the time, I didn’t give “Charmed” the chance it deserved.

Fast forward five or six years and I’ve just finished “Orange is the New Black” and am absently browsing Netflix. Up pops “Charmed” and, remembering my friend’s suggestion, I decide to give it ago.

Fast forward only a few weeks and I’m already mostly done with season two. Yeah. I’ve watched around forty episodes of “Charmed” in my spare time. Can you say addicted? At least my work (and MTG playing) hasn’t suffered! Although I have sacrificed a few trips to the gym. Oops.

Charmed is a fun show about witches, warlocks, demons and other supernatural beings. I love the idea that witches could live among us, so that’s probably what initially got me hooked. The three main characters, Prue, Piper and Phoebe, are sisters who came into their power after their grandmother died. They’re among the most powerful witches… ever. They’re “the charmed ones”, and they have “the power of three”.  And they’re pretty kick ass: Prue has the power to move things (telekinesis), Piper can freeze things/ people/ whatever she wants and Phoebe can see the future and the past. (She’s also pretty awesome at kick-boxing, since she didn’t want to be the only one without an ‘active’ power’.

The three of them fight various warlocks and demons in every episode, while dealing with day-to-day life. Each story is definitely entertaining, and usually I have no idea how the writers will be able to tie up all the loose ends by the end of the episode.  It’s just fun to watch. At least, everything I’ve seen so far has been.

I don’t know much about the show besides its characters and dramatic turns in the first couple seasons, so this post won’t be too detailed — I was going to look up more information about it, but Astro warned me that the wikipedia page was riddled with spoilers. And to be honest, I don’t even want to google Charmed because I don’t want anything ruined for me. (I really hate spoilers, and even finding the featured image for this post raised questions that didn’t need to be raised…) But considering the show started in the 90s, I’m amazed I don’t know more about it. Then again, I shouldn’t really be surprised… I’m pretty oblivious to pop culture, and was even more so back then.

But I can tell you my top five favorite things about Charmed, so far:

  1. Prue, Piper and Phoebe are all strong women who aren’t afraid to follow their dreams. Even though they have demons dogging their steps the three of them still find time to pursue their goals. They work hard, and they don’t give up… even when they really, really want to.
  2. They are really good people, but they have weaknesses too. The three of them are very human. As ‘the charmed ones’ they are supposed to protect the innocent and fight for the good side. But they aren’t perfect; they struggle with making the right decision as much as normal people would.
  3. The show is kind of an emotional roller coaster. Some might not view this as a perk, but I think it makes watching it more fun. I like it when I’m so attached to the characters I get emotional.
  4. The bad guys are creative. I’ll be the first to admit that each episode is pretty formulaic, but the foes the three of them need to vanquish are usually pretty interesting. One of my favorites so far was the demon of illusion — he was able to influence audiences of horror movies to make them rowdy and dangerous. And he figured out how to pull the killers from the screen to real life!
  5. It’s just fun. Charmed isn’t the most intellectual fantasy story, and it doesn’t take the much attention to detail to get the whole story, but it’s fun and enjoyable to watch. Which is what entertainment is for, right? 😉

Plus, it’s set in the 90s and early 2000s, so it is fun to look at the technology and fashion and see how much things have changed. I, for one, am glad the whole belly shirt fad is gone. I’m not sure I could pull that off as well as Prue, Piper and Phoebe can!

All for now,
Bale

What are some old shows you love? Have you discovered any recently?

Cards, strategy, trivia and more… Bale’s top five board games!

the picture I sent Astro as soon as I got home from my LGS. YEAH DOMINION!

The picture I sent Astro as soon as I got home from my LGS. YEAH DOMINION!

I’m a very competitive person; it runs in my family. Growing up we didn’t play many board games because they would all end in fights. Once, my sister got so mad she lost at Sequence she accidentally broke the board in half. She was folding it wrong, but was doing it so violently (because she lost) it just snapped. I think that convinced my parents that they shouldn’t get us any more board games. Well, except the board games based on “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” and, of course, Lord of the Rings Trivia. Because Tolkien. And before you all get the idea I never play games with my family, I’ll have you know that we’re all much more mature now; when my sister loses, she doesn’t break a board in half, she just sulks a little bit. ( And I’m definitely guilty of that, too.) Now that we’re older, my brother, sister and I can play games with our parents and it’s usually a good time. Especially if we’re playing Lord of the Rings Trivia or Risk. And drinking Vihno Verde or Belgian beer (aka the best beer). But as a family we still don’t play board games all that often, even when we’re all together.

So how did I become such a board game geek? Well, I had one really good friend in high school that would invite me over for board game nights with her family. (They were more civil when they lost.) They introduced me to all sorts of games beyond the classics. They’re who I first played Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Betrayal at the House on the HIll and many more games with. They are entirely to blame for my obsession board games. And as such, they’re the reason this list is even being written — so thanks! (You know who you are.) So without further ado, here are my favorite games, in no particular order. I couldn’t an absolute favorite pick among these.

BALE’S TOP FIVE BOARD GAMES

Dominion — Astro and her friends from college introduced me to Dominion when her friends visited last fall. It’s a deck-building game where you “buy” action cards and money cards to help you eventually buy victory cards, which are how you win. Astro’s friends brought along a million expansions, and after a quick explanation we started playing. It took me the first couple rounds to get the hang of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Once we got going (aka I was up to speed), it was fast-paced and very entertaining. Unfortunately, Astro’s friends took Dominion home with them, so it was a long time before I got to play it again. After a friend from my LGS brought it to a game night at the beginning of the summer, I knew I needed to get my own copy eventually. Cue the parents visiting in July and offering to buy a game for me. We headed to my LGS and they ended up buying me the Intrigue expansion. It’s one of the only expansions that stands on its own, and I was lucky it was there — my LGS happened to be out of the original. I’ve played my copy a LOT since then. I really enjoy finding different combinations of cards and building a deck that is fun, and efficient, to play. And hopefully win! 😉

Risk — A game that is a healthy combination of luck and strategy, Risk is actually somewhat of a family tradition. My dad, his siblings and cousins play it at every family reunion, and the winner even gets a trophy.  When Astro and I moved in together we both bought a board game (we’re allowed to buy ourselves housewarming gifts, right?), and I chose Risk. We’ve broken it out a couple times, and it’s been really fun. I even got my parents to play while they were here! My dad was happy I’d managed to find a set that has the original board, cards and wooden pieces. At my childhood home we have a version with plastic pieces that my dad really doesn’t like. I think we have a REALLY old version somewhere, too, but like I said above, we didn’t play many games for a long time. (BTW, in case you don’t know, the point of Risk is to take over the world. You win battles by rolling dice, which can be very frustrating.)

Settlers of Catan — I LOVE Settlers of Catan. Like Risk, it depends on both strategy and luck. Unlike Risk, the board changes every game, and so do the odds. The goal of Settlers is to be the first player to 10 victory points. You get victory points by building settlements and cities, and you build those by getting resources. You get resources based on where you’re built on the board, what resources you’re next to and whether the dice decide to roll your numbers. It’s fun, strategic and there is a lot of table talk. At least there is when I play! It’s great because there is a ton of player interaction. Like Dominion, there are a lot of different expansions, but I prefer the original (so far).

Betrayal at the House on the Hill — Admittedly, I’ve only played this game a few times. It’s one of the ones my friend from high school introduced me to, and I love it because it showed me how creative board games can be. Betrayal has two parts; in the first you’re all working together to explore the house, and in the second (the “haunt”) one player becomes the traitor. Each game is very, very different because not only are you creating a whole new board as you go, the haunt changes depending on the circumstances in which its triggered. There are two booklets, one for the traitor and one for everyone else, that give the details of the various scenarios. What I particularly enjoy about Betrayal is how much you get to use your imagination. You also have to work together with the other players to survive, which is fun. Betrayal got a place on this list because of how extremely different it is than Monopoly, Sequence and other games that most people first think of when you say “board games”. And it’s just awesome.

Lord of the Rings Trivia — At one time this was the only game my family and I could play together. This is hands down the most-played game in my family. And I still don’t think we’ve gone through all the questions. It’s almost impossible to beat my dad, but it can be done if you get lucky with your questions. My dad is the original Tolkien-lover of my family, and he’s read the books more times than any of us. The LotR Trivia game is NOT based on the movies, but on the books. So if you’ve only seen the movies and you try to play, you’re gonna have a bad time. I mean, you can get the obvious questions like (and I’m not kidding here) “What is taters, precious?”, but the more obscure ones are ridiculously hard… even if you’ve read the books. My family and I think the people who wrote the questions must have had an absolute blast thinking up the most obscure, random facts to use, while at the same time sprinkling in the most obvious questions ever. It’s been known to cause a fair bit of anger if one person gets lucky with the potato question, and then the next gets something my dad doesn’t even know the answer to. Good times, good times.

And now I’ve just successfully made myself want to play every single one of these board games. Guess I’ll be planning a game night soon!

All for now,
Bale

What are some of your favorite board games?

Bale does actually watch TV shows…

image downloaded from wallpaperbest.com

image downloaded from wallpaperbest.com

Ever since I implemented my self-imposed Netflix limitation, I have cut down on the amount of hours spent watching TV. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had the occasional binge session on a sick day, or that I haven’t enjoyed good shows coming out. Because, let’s be honest, there are a lot of good shows out there. So I thought for this week’s non-magic Wednesday I’d share some of my favorites with you guys.

Bale’s top TV shows

The following shows are my favorites of the past few months. I don’t watch much, so there are only a few. But I do highly recommend all of them.

  • The Newsroom (HBO) — When this show first came out last year, I immediately fell in love with it. I was a journalism major in college and interned at two different TV stations, so I had an immediate connection to the show. I loved the premise: quality reporting needs a place on cable news networks. “The Newsroom” takes real news stories from the past couple years and shows its fictional reporting team covering them. The second season has more of an overarching storyline to it, and it’s really good. Season one was about showing how news should be covered, and season two is about showing how hard it can be to get facts right… and, in a way, how news should not be covered. Anyways, “The Newsroom” has definitely found a place in this journalism nerd’s heart, and I definitely recommend it.
  • House of Cards (Netflix) — Before I actually watched “House of Cards”, a lot of my friends told me I’d love it. There was a journalist as a main character, and it presents a critical look at how things really get done in Washington with Kevin Spacey starring as a vengeful senator. But I was skeptical. I don’t really like politics — I have my opinions,  I respect other people’s opinions, I discuss it occasionally and I vote. That’s it. I didn’t really think I’d like it in my entertainment. Boy was I wrong. I started “House of Cards” on a day I stayed home sick from work and pretty much didn’t move all day because I was too engrossed in the story. It’s dramatic. It’s fairly unrealistic. And I hated the journalist character. But I couldn’t stop watching because the storyline was too intriguing. It’s the perfect mix of mystery and revenge. I finished the whole season in less than a week, which definitely means it’s at least entertaining.
  • Game of Thrones (HBO) — The third season has been over for a while, but I never missed an episode. It’s one of those shows that once you’re invested in, you can’t really stop. I have mixed feelings about the series, though, because I don’t really enjoy the books. I read the first one and started the second, but I really don’t like the writing style or George R. R. Martin’s storytelling. The series makes for a much better TV shows than books, at least in my opinion. (Hopefully the first and last time I’ll ever write that sentence.) The books are too episodic, with very little overarching storyline to follow; something that works much better on screen. So even though I have made several attempts to read the series, I’ve decided to just wait for the TV show and enjoy the soap-opera-esque series that way. Although after a certain episode in season three, I almost gave up. I’ll see what season four has in store, though, before I give up entirely. And don’t get me wrong. GoT is a really good fantasy show, which is why I love it. I’m just a little snobby when people start comparing it to “Lord of the Rings” and saying GRRM is as talented as JRR Tolkien. Because that is definitely NOT true. But if you enjoy fantasy, you’ll enjoy GoT at least enough to watch the show.
  • Orange is the New Black (Netflix) — Astro convinced me to give this show a chance. I’d heard good things from other friends as well, but I didn’t really think a show about prison would interest me. At all. But Netflix surprised me again. I haven’t gotten through the whole first season yet, but I’m making steady progress. The best part of the show is the character development. “Orange is the New Black” tells the inmates’ stories through flashbacks, which is a neat way to get to know the characters as they were before they were incarcerated while explaining why they’re in prison. The flashbacks also often give you an idea of why the inmates act the way they do, which is also neat. I wouldn’t say “Orange is the New Black” is the best show ever, but I do really enjoy it so far.

Honorable mentions

These shows are shows I’ve watched and enjoyed, but are purely entertaining. No emotional attachment necessary for these. And all of these can be found on Netflix.

  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy — for hilarious fashion, food, interior design and ‘culture’ advice from the early 2000s, look no further. Entertaining as hell, but not the best show ever.
  • Say Yes to the Dress — Wedding dresses and emotional girls. Drama ensues. It’s awesome.
  • Coupling — A British comedy that came before “Friends” that somebody told me was its inspiration, “Coupling” is about six friends and is hilariously raunchy and pretty much all about sex and relationships. If you need a good laugh, give it a shot. (If you’re not easily offended, that is.)
  • The IT Crowd — Another British comedy that is just downright funny. It’s all about a couple of socially awkward guys who work in IT, and the definitely-not-tech-savvy girl who ends up in their department.

So there you have it. My favorite TV shows from the past several months. I wouldn’t say these are my favorite of all time (I just realized Law and Order: SVU never made an appearance), but I really like all these shows, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

All for now,
Bale

What are some of your favorite TV shows?