Sufjan Stevens @ Loew’s Landmark Theatre, Jersey City (Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015)

November 1, 2015

Went to this concert with Vivenzio on Halloween night. We were both looking forward to this show and as we glanced at the setlist from prior shows, we knew that Sufjan would be playing every song off of his latest album “Carrie & Lowell.” This forced us to listen to the new album instead of hoping he would play tracks from his whole catalog, but this was a blessing in disguise because “Carrie & Lowell” is a masterpiece. Written about the death of his mom who abandoned him when he was younger, Sufjan addresses the pain and confusion dealing with his personal tragedies with beautifully simplistic songs, usually with just an acoustic guitar and his whispering voice. The best word I can use to describe the experience of the album is “haunting.”

To no surprise, the concert experience was the same way. In front of a sold out crowd in Jersey City, Sufjan played an amazing set, stripped down to merely his acoustic guitar and himself. He had four band members playing back-up instrumentals and vocals, but this was definitely the Sufjan Stevens show. It was also one of the darkest concerts I have attended, without a single person taking out their cell phone to take pictures or videos. Everyone was mesmerized by the magic of Sufjan’s voice and finger-picked guitar riffs. From the first song of the night, “Death with Dignity,” home videos of Sufjan’s childhood were displayed behind him. It set the tone for the night, that he was going to invite all of us to some of the most personal moments that he can remember, some being painful and others more accepting. The audience listened to every lyric and every note played with their undivided attention.

During the first 80 minutes of the performance, Sufjan didn’t speak one word to the audience. Not even a simple “hello,” but instead played his songs with an efficient light show up on the stage to a respectful and seated packed auditorium. And as incredible the album is, some of Sufjan’s live versions of his songs were even better. Those highlights include: John My Beloved, Fourth of July, and All of Me Wants All of You. These live interpretations stood out from the rest of the pack. Also, as Sufjan ended his set with Blue Bucket of Gold, this resulted in a ten-minute jam session of crasing drums, wild guitar melodies, and a never-ending synth loop with a crescendo to fill your ears of so much noise you wouldn’t think possible.

The encore had a much different tone. He finally spoke to the audience, thanking us for the applause and then telling us “Happy Halloween.” What better night is there to sing songs about death? He then dipped into his catalog and played some of my favorites such as For the Widows in Paradise For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti and John Wayne Gacy Jr. He also played an acoustic version of Chicago, probably his most well-known song. But to truly end the night on a high note, Sufjan with his opener Gallant, played a cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and it was both hilarious and awesome. It was really nice to see Sufjan just let loose by busting some dance moves while singing “You used to call me on my cell phone!”

Overall, this concert only fortifies my feeling that Sufjan puts on one of the best live shows in the business today. Seeing him during his Age of Adz tour and now with Carrie & Lowell, you couldn’t pick two shows more different than these two from the same artist, but both were equally spectacular. I can’t wait for Sufjan to come around again… maybe in another four or five years.


1. Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
2. Death with Dignity
3. Should Have Known Better
4. Drawn to the Blood
5. Eugene
6. John My Beloved
7. The Only Thing
8. Fourth of July
9. No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
10. Carrie & Lowell
11. All of Me Wants All of You
12. Vesuvius
13. I Want to Be Well
14. Blue Bucket of Gold


15. Futile Devices
16. For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
17. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
18. Chicago
19. Hotline Bling

Mr. Robot – “eps1.9_zer0-day.avi”

September 4, 2015

Season One, Episode Ten


Grade: B+

Season One Grade: A

After two incredibly thrilling episodes back-to-back, it was impossible for Mr. Robot to keep its foot on the acceleration pedal through the first season’s finale. But we did get answers, and boy did they ever give us the results we wanted. Or did we? It’s easy to go along for the ride with Fsociety and say “F the world! Hack them all!” because we’re not a part of that world. If this was really a possibility, would we go along with it? That’s the dilemma here but it’s not what the main story is about during the finale.

Elliot wakes up in the driver seat inside Tyrell’s car. Apparently he’s been missing for days and whatever happened after he explained the plan to Tyrell, Elliot doesn’t remember (and therefore neither do we). What we do know is that the hack went through and the world is now in panic mode except for a few people. Let’s break them down.

Darlene is loving life right now that, and despite her other fellow hackers of Fsociety not exactly thrilled like she is, they all know what kind of difference they’ve just made. The world is now without debt and there doesn’t seem to be a way that the White House or E Corp can fix it. The global economy is a mess and everyone is now in a world where they cannot use credit cards or access their bank records. But what is there really to celebrate?

Angela isn’t exactly in panic mode, nor is she excited about what’s happening. She ends up taking that job at Evil Corp but she doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. It’s strange for her to be working in the same company that she was in a legal battle over. It’s the same company that almost directly killed her mother, yet here she is, just another part of the powerful and heartless organization. She even does her part as her heart is as hard as stone after her boss kills himself during a live interview. But Phillip Price, the CEO of E Corp, is able to influence her to simply get new shoes and attend the afternoon press conference.

As for Phillip, he is incredibly calm and collected after what has just happened. Angela even brings it up and his response was more a distraction than a direct answer. He says that people caused this mess, and he’s sure that people will turn things around eventually. The most important role we see Phillip take part in was the after-credits scene between him and the White Rose. A great way to hint that there is something we’re not seeing yet, and by we I mean Elliot and Fsociety. Could they be part of the Dark Army maybe?

As for Elliot, he goes through most of the episode trying to figure out what the hell happened and why he can’t remember anything. Last thing he remembers was telling Tyrell the whole plan, and the next thing he knows it the hack was successfully damaging. Though the world is now free of its debt, Elliot will never be free of his family, including his father Mr. Robot. It was predictable that Mr. Robot wasn’t real, but what’s interesting now is how Mr. Robot is playing the alter-ego. Elliot struggles to believe in everything that’s happening. He doesn’t want the people protesting and rioting in the streets. He doesn’t want the world to be crumbling and society to be rebranded. But Mr. Robot does and he’s just a part of Elliot’s subconscious. And like what Mr. Robot and the family said, Elliot can’t get rid of them. They’re a part of him forever.

It’s sort of a cheap trick to skip through the actual hacking that flipped the world upside-down, but it’s a useful technique to keep us invested towards the second season. We still want to know what happened during those days Elliott doesn’t remember. And to end the season with a knocking on Elliot’s door only intensifies the feeling. It has to be Tyrell though, right?

Before I go, I just want to mention that pre-opening credit scene between Krista and Lenny. He’s trying to make a case with the police to locate Elliot and have him arrested for hacking him. Sure, he’s a sleaze-bag but he does have a point, but like the police told him he’s going to need a lot of proof to put him away. Can we assume this is going to at least be one of the plots in the second season?


Fear the Walking Dead – “So Close, Yet So Far”

September 3, 2015

Season One, Episode Two


Grade: B+

I’m trying my best not to compare Fear to The Walking Dead, but one thing has been a glaring similarity: the show kills off its black characters. It’s been a criticism since the second season of The Walking Dead, which has now killed off more than a dozen supporting characters (T-Dog, Bob, Tyreese, and Noah just to name a few). It’s only been two episodes for Fear to kill off THREE supporting black characters: Art, Matt, and Calvin. The show-runners have to be aware of this criticism, but have no intention of turning it around whatsoever.

Okay, now that’s out of my system I’ll say that I did enjoy the second episode. One thing that Fear is doing well that TWD also succeeds in is showing how sometimes people can be a lot more frightening than the undead. The world in Fear is still in the “confusion” state, but we’re quickly moving forward into the chaos stage a bit prematurely. The chaos is beginning not because the world is understanding what’s going on, it’s because it has no idea why police are shooting people point-blank. The reactions of the crowds certainly trigger some current events, but that’s the point.

One of the scenes worth acknowledging was when we saw a police officer filling his trunk with bottled water. It’s clear he, along with other authority, knows that something is happening. Whether he’s aware that a zombie apocalypse is around the corner isn’t relevant. It’s how things are escalating so fast that there’s not time for the world to figure out what’s happening. Just like Tobias said, how can you prepare for something catastrophic that’s happening the same day?

As for Tobias, I’m going to miss him. I really expected him to join Madison and her family but he’s likely aware that he has a better chance surviving on his own, since he’s the only one who seems to know exactly what’s going on. Still, the show could use his narration and voice of reason to speed everyone up to pace. What’s disappointing is how it seems like Travis’ ex-wife and teenage son, Christopher, is going to be around for at least a little while. Who knows, maybe they’ll actually be developed into great characters but as for right now, they’re the two I wish would get bit.

I’m not a fan of splitting up Madison and Travis so early on in the series. During the pilot they had great on-screen chemistry and the show will suffer without them together. At least Nick took a backseat during this episode as he was going through withdrawal. What Fear is doing well this early on in the season is engaging the audience despite us knowing what’s going to happen next. We’re witnessing the chaos alongside Madison and Travis and putting ourselves in their shoes, wondering if we would make the same decisions that they made. For now, this is as good as it can get, but can Fear keep moving forward before the shit hits the fan?

But while the streets have turned violent, there is the barber and his family who takes in Travis, Liza, and Christopher. There is something that tells me the barber is going to have more to play in this season. His wife seems to realize something bad is happening as she prays, but the barber is more alert, first to the strangers inside of his home and second to the madness that has erupted outside. It should be fun to watch how that plays out, but I’m hoping Travis makes his way back to Madison real soon.

Podcast: The War on Pop Culture

August 27, 2015

I would like to present my new podcast, The War on Pop Culture.

This is a new project with my good buddy Mike V. where we discuss all things pop culture, but mainly movies, television, and music. We just posted our very first episode. Please check it out!

Fear the Walking Dead – “Pilot”

August 24, 2015

Season One, Episode One


Grade: B

Well what do you think Walking Dead fans? I’m sure you’re mostly disappointed with the pilot of the spin-off series, mainly because it was pretty dull. What Walking Dead fans want during the months without traveling alongside Rick and Daryl is more zombie chaos! Unfortunately for those, there weren’t many in the Fear the Walking Dead pilot. Instead, it did something that the Walking Dead didn’t from the beginning, establish and fortify a backbone of its core characters.

The core consists of a happy and smart family, and their junkie child. Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her fiance Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) both work at the high school. Madison is a guidance counselor and Travis is an English teacher. Madison’s daughter, Alicia, is smart and for the time being, not an absolute brat. But Madison’s other child, Nick, is a handful. The show opens up with Nick waking up from one of his loaded nights in an abandoned church where him and other junkies spend a lot of time in. As he searches for Gloria, he witnesses death and eventually, the sight of Gloria eating another junkie. He runs out into the daylight only to be hit by a car from behind.

That opening scene was pretty cool, but it gave the audience a false hope of what to expect for the rest of the pilot, which ends up being very tame and not scary at all. But that’s okay, because in this series the outbreak hasn’t occurred yet. In Fear, we’re going to live through the central family and the citizens of Los Angeles as the chaos begins. It might not be as cool and fun as The Walking Dead’s first season, but it might very well be more interesting (if done right).

One thing that I was fond of during the pilot was how much I actually liked the family. Dickens and Curtis do a great job at coming off as a couple who genuinely care about their family, their jobs, and each other. This is good and bad though, because while I’ll surely be rooting for them throughout the inevitable collapse of society, it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be in any real danger throughout this series, which is half the fun watching a show like this. Just look at the death totals of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Knowing that any character could die at any time keeps the audience on its toes. Can you really see either Madison or Travis dying anytime soon? It’s highly doubtful.

But while this series might play off like a tamer version of The Walking Dead, at least here we have diversity from the get-go, though already an African American character has been killed off. Will Alicia’s boyfriend be next?

So what can we expect from Fear the Walking Dead? I expect to be stuck in the “confusion” stage for most of this first season, and maybe a finale turning to chaos. Whatever the case, I’m willing to continue to watch this tight family will themselves to stay alive and fight for each other’s survival, except maybe for Nick. We can also assume that the group will expand to more than just the immediate family, but it’s safe to declare that Madison and Travis will be the driving force of this series. Is that good enough? It’s good enough for me, for now.

One Episode Left: True Detective Season Two

August 5, 2015


If you’re like me and have been trying to keep up with all of the details from the maze that True Detective Season Two has puked out for the past two months, then get in line. After re-watching the episodes and conducting plenty of research, I think I finally have some kind of grasp about what’s happening going into the finale this Sunday, which will be a 90-minute episode.

So here’s the deal. If you haven’t realized it yet, Vinci, California is insanely corrupt. There are dozens of characters that are discussed every episode that have a big part of the corruption, but it’s more difficult to remember them than the cast of Game of Thrones BECAUSE WE DON’T REMEMBER EVER SEEING THEM. Seriously, apparently one huge development in Frank Semyon’s (Vince Vaughn) story-line was how hard he took the death of Stan. If you’re wondering who the hell is/was Stan, then you’re right on the money. Stan was the guy who worked for Frank and died while having his eyes burnt out just like Caspere. Before he died, he apparently was only in TWO RANDOM SCENES. I don’t think I was alone when I said to myself, who the hell cares about this Stan guy who got killed? It’s only the natural response for the viewer who has only seen him for about one minute throughout the season. But do you know who cares? Frank cares. He cares a whole lot to the point where we have an excruciatingly long scene where he visits Stan’s family, gives the widow a bulk of cash, and has a heart-to-heart with the son who’s playing catch by himself against a wall. The trick was all on us though, because while no one gave a shit about Stan, we were stuck trying to figure out this small bit of information that essentially doesn’t matter much.


But for what it’s worth, it does matter a little bit. In the last episode we see Frank smash Blake’s face in with a glass in slow motion, before killing him and commenting about him soiling the carpet. Before Frank killed Blake, he revealed some very important details to him and to the viewers. Blake admits to killing Stan because Stan figured out everything that Blake was doing behind Frank’s back and was going to blackmail him. Blake also was the person who gave Frank the wrong name of the rapist that Ray Velcoro sought out and killed. While Blake had his hand in the pot here and there, his only real contribution to the plot was to spit out all of this information to catch the audience up to what’s happening away from the scenes we’re forced to watch. Again, it’s pretty annoying but it gets the job done.

Okay, now that all of that Stan stuff is out of the way, I can commit this post to what I assume is the real focus of this season of True Detective, which like normal shows stems from the pilot: Who killed Ben Caspere? Caspere was the city manager in Vinci, a business partner with Frank, a patient of Dr. Irving Pitlor, and involved in a number of corrupt deals such as the sex parties, the blue diamonds, and selling the land with the Catalyst Corp. He was certainly a shady fellow who couldn’t be trusted, but also one incredibly powerful to do business with. It was reported that a person with a crow mask either murdered him, or transported his body. This takes us back to the second episode when Velcoro investigates Caspere’s secret apartment and finds a video camera linked to a hard drive. A person in the crow mask shoots Velcoro point blank with rubber bullets and after he wakes up, the hard drive is gone. That’s the second mystery throughout the season, who has the hard drive?

The hard drive has some damning evidence of very powerful men at the sex parties that Caspere had for leverage. Naturally, everyone wants the hard drive. We go through the plot where Frank desperately tries to locate the hard drive to buy himself back into the land deal, but this results in an investigation gone wrong with no further development.

Where does that leave us? Well, we find out in the last episode that those blue diamonds are a huge part to this puzzle. Back in 1992, blue diamonds worth millions were robbed by two masked men, who were Dixon (the fat, drunk cop who got killed at the Vinci massacre) and Kevin Burris (the guy who killed Paul Woodrugh – more on that later). Holloway (the main guy who met with Paul in the tunnels) and Caspere knew about the theft. What’s important about all of this is that it leads directly to the main suspects of Caspere’s murder: Laura and Leonard Osterman, who were the children of the store owners that watched their parents get killed by the masked men. Once again, here comes the frustrating part about this show. We briefly see Laura in episode three, but she went by the name Erica (one of the people they question on the movie set). She was Caspere’s assistant at the time and seemed convincingly innocent. She appears in the photograph of Caspere, Vera, Tasha and the diamonds. Since then, she has quit her job, cleaned out her apartment, and hasn’t been heard from or seen. Oh, and we know NOTHING about Leonard, that I know of at least.


Now where do we stand going into the finale? We know that the Catalyst Corp. with Burris, Holloway, Chessani, and Osip want the Caspere murder investigation to go away. That’s why they closed the case so quickly when it seemed like Amarilla killed him (the guy at the Vinci massacre). But with this small force getting real close in uncovering the murder, everything is at stake for them including the diamond robbery-murder in 1992 along with the very profitable land deal. But it’s not looking too positive for the good guys. It seems like the group that was put together to continue the murder investigation of Caspere is fucked. Ani Bezzerides murdered that security guard at the sex party and is now wanted for her crime. The corrupt men have also framed Velcoro for the muder of Katherine Davis (Ani’s boss and the black woman found shot to death in her car when Velcoro was meeting with her). It’s likely that one of Velcoro’s guns was used in her murder to frame him.

So that really left Woodrugh as the main cop who didn’t have his hands dirty and could unveil everything, except that he was being blackmailed by the photos that Dixon took a while back. When Woodrugh received those photos, he met up with Holloway who wanted Bezzerides and Velcoro’s location. Instead, Woodrugh almost escaped before being shot in the back by Burris.

I’m honestly not too sure what to expect during the finale. I did enjoy Frank taking a bag-load of money and burning his casinos to the ground, which I’m sure he’ll pay for as he’ll try to take out Osip before leaving the country to Venezuela with Jordan. And as for Velcoro and Bezzerides, maybe their hook-up is exactly what they needed to loosen them up and for them to finish what they started. Find Laura, find out who Leonard is, and reveal the conspiracy before Burris and Holloway locate them. I cannot say that this has been a smooth ride, but it’s definitely one that I hope is worth it at the end.

Movie Pictionary! #3

June 18, 2015

A few of my friends and I have a new hobby, playing Movie Pictionary through Google Hangouts. As if Pictionary wasn’t fun enough, having it movie-themed makes it a lot more fun. Plus the added difficulty of drawing on a small area with your computer mouse, or touch pad, results in some really bad doodles. But that just makes the guessing even better! So I figure that I should let you into some of our drawings and the comments we made while guessing. For anyone who wants to play along, I’ll leave all the answers at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!


Rob: Fantasia?
Chris: Negative.
Mike: It could either be a football field, or a rack of ribs.
Rob: I saw steps and a bucket of water.
Chris: Exactly!


Rob: Is that a toilet bowl?
Chris: Mike, if that’s ******** I’m going to flip out!
Mike: It is!
Chris: I thought of drawing the exact same thing!
Rob: How is a toilet bowl the drawing for ********?!
Chris: I even did a test run and decided that no one would ever guess it.
Mike: Hahahaha
Chris: That’s the only reason why I got it lol.
Mike: It was not easy to draw.


Rob: I have no idea what I’m looking at here.
Mike: Once you get it, you will totally see it.
Chris: Hmmm. Yeah I’m lost. Is the red a fence? And people are storming it?
Rob: I think it’s fire.
Rob: Is it ********?
Mike: Yes! Come on, that’s not half bad.
Chris: I definitely see it now that it’s revealed.

Answers: Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Independence Day.


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