Things I Liked in 2021

Well, here we go again! I’m writing this intro fresh and early in January in the hopes that 2021 is filled with some primo excellence and less icky bits than 2020. Am I right, future Adam? Just put your answer here when you get ready to edit and post this bad boy (Eh, 2021 was still pretty stressful, but at least there were some good things to come from it! Even if the year felt like it dragged on for 10 years…).

I Think You Should Leave

“We’re all just trying to figure out who did this” image via Slate

Holy moly, season one of this show really threw me for a loop. It’s one of those shows where if you go in blind, you will find yourself shocked, amused, and tickled by the sketches. I find myself thinking about/quoting this show nearly every day, it’s so damn infectious. Season two came out this year as well and had a much darker-feeling tone. While I prefer season one, season two is still highly entertaining. If you like stranger comedy and incredibly odd situations, this is the show for you!

Taskmaster

Image via Taskmater Official YouTube Channel

From the Toast of London to Taskmaster! My wife is getting me into more and more British comedies and I’m here for it. The concept is simple: Five comedians come together and complete different silly tasks devised by the Taskmaster (Greg Davies) and his assistant (Alex Horne). Not all seasons/series are created equal, but we managed to get through nine, if I’m not mistaken. Series seven and nine are incredible, as is series one and three. Series seven may be my personal favorite: Rhod Gilbert is Greg’s long-time friend, and the banter they have is incredible! The whole ensemble that season was hilarious, and I highly recommend you take some time to watch through them all!

Bloodborne

Image via WCCF Tech

I think this may have started in late December, but I finally got to play another FromSoftware game. I borrowed Bloodborne from a friend, and holy moly, I got good. I ended up getting the platinum trophy and playing through it multiple times, trying different builds. I’m really enchanted by the setting, the variety of weapons and armor, and the overall strangeness of the story. The Insight mechanic is such a perfect metaphor for sanity in the game, the characters are eery, and the city of Yarnham is stunning. If they remaster this, I’ll definitely go back for a visit. After all, I never did get to try the DLC, so there’s one good reason to revisit it again in the future!

Inside

This was a comedy special from Bo Burnham, Youtuber turned comedian turned filmmaker. This special takes place entirely in a single room and it explores his deteriorating mental state and the consequences of being alone in a room, alone in your mind, and trapped “Inside” many different spaces. It’s easily one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen in a very long time. His use of framing, lighting, and effects, from a technical perspective, is amazing. It captivated me as his songs and monologues explore some really heady concepts. It’s more than worth the time you put into watching it.

The analysis around the special has also been electrifying; months after its debut, people continued to dissect it, turning it around, seeing what more could be interpreted. One of my favorites was from F. D. Signifier (embedded above), who had a take that kind of blew my mind, as it was not something I was really capable of seeing until it was pointed out to me. Incredible stuff!

Vaccination

I got vaccinated! In Japan! I wrote a chronicle of my vaccination process here, so check it out if you haven’t.

Valkyria Chronicles Series

The bundle! Image via Official Playstation Store

I decided to go back and replay Valkyria Chronicles, a game I bought on a whim in college at Best Buy way back in 2003 or 2004. I remember really enjoying the combat. Yes, the story is a bit too… anime at times, and the ending is SUPER anime, but I didn’t find that all too detracting from my overall enjoyment of the game. So, when a bundle was on sale with the remaster and #4, I decided to give them a go again. I’d never played #4, and I must say, even though it is way too tropey with its anime tropes, I still found myself really enjoying the gameplay! If somewhat embarrassing anime dialogue and characters aren’t your thing, I get it, but the game has a lot to offer. I really enjoyed that you can unlock chapters delving into the stories of your squadmates, the disposable foot soldiers in your unit. There are also really cool details that make it shine, such as when you meet a certain character, and your ally, Kai, asks about the covering of his gun. He mentions it was made by his wife, and it is traditional sewing. Then, later, on an optional mission, you can find this character again and see the rifle, quite possibly the most powerful sniper rifle in the game, again! Good fun if you like tactical RPGs!

Flobots – Handlebars

This song got some attention again in July/August, with a few of the YouTubers I watch doing analysis on the video, or just jumping into the comments to leave a comment. I remember when this song came out: I was graduating from the University of Tampa and packing up my life to head up to Orlando to begin my Walt Disney World College Internship program. The song was on the alt-rock stations in pretty heavy rotation, so I’d hear it, but I couldn’t really pay attention to the lyrics too closely. Listening to them now, they were strangely prescient; so much in the lyrics, from the simple accomplishments escalating to world annihilation, ring eerily true today: vaccines, people dying due to lack of medicine, killing people remotely, and the strong current of rising fascism in the song. It’s cathartic to have a song like this come back to life and popularity in these troubling times, especially when it was almost written off completely.

Defunctland: Fast Pass

This is absurd. It is a documentary about lines. Queueing. At the Disney parks. It dives into Queueing theory and Industrial Engineering, crowd control, and business moves made by Disney to stem the flow of 3+ hour wait times for attractions. Did I mention that Kevin Purjurer made his own program to simulate crowds, crowd preferences, and the use of a fast pass-like system? This has no reason to be as good as it is, yet here we are. The man knows how to make consistently good documentaries and videos!

Arabica Garnica Coffee

Garnica Coffee - Two Second Street - www.twosecondstreet.com

I found it: A coffee bean variety that bears my family’s name. First cultivated in the 1960s in Veracruz, Mexico, it is a hybrid of Arabica Mundo Novo and Arabica Caturra. I found this, quite randomly, in a Mexican coffee shop in Shibuya. I ordered a cup and I’m glad I did! It has a nice smooth texture and a very drinkable flavor that agrees with my palette: it’s not heavy on acidity or fruitiness, nor is it overly bitter. It has a nice lightness with a bit of citrus taste. It was so balanced for me that I was able to drink it black. I don’t drink black coffee, but this was balanced enough to forego the milk. It’s super niche coffee, but if you ever see it, give it a go!

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