Farrell steals show in ‘True Detective’ Season 2 premiere

When “True Detective” launched last year on HBO, with an epic intro somewhere between “True Blood” and spaghetti western, the mood was set to capture rural Louisiana. Headed by the acting talents of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, neither of whom felt out of place in the south, the show seemed fresh, and authentic. In its second iteration, despite boasting far more names–and even a few former “True Blood” cast members–Sunday’s premiere episode came off as disjointed and volatile as the San Andreas fault. And not in a fun, Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino kind of way, as I have heard (by the way–Johnson’s “Ballers” is one half-hour show worth watching Sunday nights, although I am about to give up on Gugino in “Wayward Pines”).

Frank Semyon, played by Vince Vaughn, is a soft spoken business man who has a dark, L.A.-casino-interest and shady-dive side. He takes interest in Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), whose wife has been raped by an unknown assailant. This attack serves as Ray’s main arc/purpose), as he wants revenge and has been left with a child that is most likely not his own. Frank shows empathy and wants to help Ray, but ultimately we still know next to nothing about what drives Frank after one episode. Ray, on the other hand, who is emotionally unstable following the attack on his wife, is a stand out success in episode one, especially when played next to the seen-it-before Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), the boyscout cop on a motorcycle. Paul has the perfect girlfriend that he cannot commit to because of his dark past and suicidal tendencies. It is a tired cliche that does not touch what McConaughey accomplished in the first season. As for Farrell, he plays angry too well; he is the stand-out star, and I will be watching this season just to see how he develops.

While Farrell shines as the crazy alcoholic detective, the dreadfully flat Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) does little to help flesh out a strong, female character. Season one did not have much in terms of female empowerment either, but at least Maggie Hart (Michelle Monaghan) had the opportunity to stand up for herself and explore the issue. Hopefully Ani will be treated more like a lead in future episodes rather than “a woman in a man’s world who is more man than her boyfriend,” which is a tired trope that had more success in the first season of “Girls” than it does here. Also, I think it is fair to say that it’s difficult to see McAdams as the lead on a drug raid. I recently viewed the film Aloha with a friend, and while that McAdams happened to be over-the-top girly, the role felt more comfortable than this over-the-top ex-junkie character. Don’t get me wrong; I like McAdams, she can act, but the first show did her no favors as far as building her credibility as a hard-nosed cop. Instead, her character’s family members act only to discredit her further, leaving viewers to think, “Ok, so why should we care about her, let alone believe she has power?”

I went in excited to see McAdams tied to this season, but I was expecting more of an “X-Files”-like Scully at command, not the emotional, identity-craving mess presented in Bezzerides. Would it be too terrible for the show to feature a strong female lead to counter these brooding boys? Are we going to have to struggle with four different characters that are all hopeless in some way? Would anyone really want to watch that depressing mess week after week?

While the first half hour of True Detective’s second season premiere felt too deliberate in how chaotic the threads were presented, the last couple of minutes suggested the future episodes might have a form worth admiring. If they all start the same way, however, I imagine viewership will plummet. The problem is in all of these threads, whereas the first season focused primarily on the interest of whether or not Rust Cohle (McConaughey) was guilty of doing something terrible. After that, it was pretty much a two-man show between McConaughey and Harrelson–which was great–with Monaghan filling in the details and Alexandra Daddario being blue-eyed and gorgeous (note to self: I need to actually watch that San Andreas, which also stars Daddario). As mentioned prior, episode one, “The Western Book of the Dead,” features its own HBO-family eye candy in former “True Blood” actors James Frain (who played Tara-obsessed Franklin) and the gorgeous Ashley Hinshaw (pictured; who Jason has an eye for toward the end). The former has a very small role, while the latter will likely appear in future episodes, because–if for no other reason–legs. In fact they made it so apparent in this “True” show, they threw on an ankle monitor just to emphasize them. We see what you did there, HBO. We see.

All things considered, tune in for Farrell. Vaughn seems misplaced, McAdams does too, and the only constant from last season is that most of the surnames of the major players sound like they could reside from Ireland or Scotland. I’ll remain optimistic, but it’s unlikely this season will find the magic last season brought to the table.

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New seats at University Mall Theatres, in Fairfax, VA

University Mall Theatres, in Fairfax, Virginia

Over the month of August, Daniel Collings, the manager of University Mall Theatres, in Fairfax, Virginia, ran a Kickstarter to raise $100,000 for new seats.  The old ones were ripped, torn, and some were beat up so bad they had solid holes in the middle.  I’m talking big enough to fall through, big.  Thankfully for Collings, backers met his goal and raised over $30,000 extra for the “Save Our Butts” campaign, an aptly named double entendre.  Collings wanted to give viewers a better movie-going experience, but the cost of replacing 500 seats proved too far out of his budget.

The entire University mall, which is located just across from the Fairfax, Virginia, campus of George Mason University, had been under construction for some time prior to his plea.  The theater lost a lot of revenue because of the construction work, which blocked off the sidewalk leading to the theater and took up parking spaces.  Collings tried his hand at Kickstarter to even out his losses, offering backers a chance to pledge anywhere from $1 to $10,000 (no one, it is assumed, pledged more than $1,000).

I visited the theater Saturday, February 7, shortly after receiving Kickstarter rewards for a humble $50 pledge.  As you can see, things are still very much in progress at the theater; as you walk in, you get the sense the Kickstarter was really needed.  To the right are water fountains covered by plastic bags, and to the left is the old entrance, which is inaccessible.  Right of the blocked off old entrance you’ll find a welcome mat and the ticket counter.

This theater, if you are not familiar, plays films that are not often left playing at bigger venues, except for the case in which Oscars buzz brings a film back.  It’s a nice alternative if you miss something, but single-showing movies really fill up, especially on the weekend.  I went to see Interstellar on the advice of my friend Anne, who saw the Oscar-nominated film back around when it made its first run at the bigger venues.  I arrived at 7:35 p.m. and had to sit six rows back from the front at that time.  By the 8:00 p.m. showing, the entire 16-row theater was full.  Keep that in mind whether you go on Tuesday, for $2 movies, or on the weekend (more on prices later).

So how were the seats?  They were actually quite comfortable, and nice.  There’s still popcorn and sticky stuff on the floor, and the bannister leading down to the theater was broken, but it’s progress.  Maybe Collings will run a “Save Our Balance” Kickstarter in the summer?

When a movie starts up, all 2,705 backers are proudly displayed.  I believe they’ll do that for the rest of this calendar year.  It’s nearly impossible, however, to make out your own name, even on the big screen (don’t even try with the linked video).  When you look, consider the list is alphabetized.  You’ll also notice a nice neon EXIT sign, in the enhanced, blurry picture that follows.

Six rows back in the new seats (photo is enhanced).


University Mall Theatres
Address: University Mall, 10659 Braddock Rd, Fairfax, VA 22032
Movie Ticket: $4 regular, $3 for GMU students, $2 on Tuesday
Concessions: Popcorn and Soda Fountain drinks
Website: http://www.universitymalltheatres.com/


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Free music, featuring the Alice in Chains-like ‘Kill Devil Hill’

Kill Devil Hill bassist Rex Brown (Shadowgate)

 

In the post-Napster world, there are actually a ton of free, legit music downloads as easy as a valid e-mail address (and in the case of Amazon, a password).  Here are a few examples of free rock music for those who like metal, new and old.

To get one of the Relapse samplers–which are released annually in October–find and click the “Buy Now” link after you go to one of the sampler websites listed above (or get it straight from Amazon; I couldn’t find the 2012 edition, though).  When prompted to enter a dollar amount, enter a zero (or whatever you wish), then proceed to enter a valid e-mail address.

Each sampler includes a whopping 26 songs.  Casual Metal fans will be familiar with a few of the Relapse artists, like Baroness, Royal Thunder, and Red Fang, but many of the songs feature screaming rather than harmony.  Some songs, however, are kind of shoegaze, like Nothing’s “Get Well,” which is a bit weird amongst all the screaming.

The 2012 and 2014 samplers include a PDF with some information about those screaming bands, which is a really nice feature.  For whatever reason, the 2013 sampler does not come with a PDF.

Century Media Records’s Carnival of Sounds features a much more melodic mix than the Relapse samplers.  Their current rendition includes Queensryche, while past issues have featured popular bands such as In Flames, Iced Earth, Lacuna Coil, and In This Moment.  The problem with Century Media Records is that they only keep a sampler up for a limited amount of time; get Carnival of Sounds III now if you want it (and you want it, trust me).  If you are interested in Carnival of Sounds II–or have Carnival of Sounds I, which I missed–let me know.

Much like Relapse, Century Media requires you enter an e-mail address by which you’ll start your download.  This particular mix features some great harmony in Kill Devil Hill’s “Crown of Thorns,” which sounds like a cousin to Alice in Chains.  If you like the more classic kind of metal, you should definitely check them out.  I like their last album so much I’m embarrassed I didn’t know about them sooner.

If neither Relapse nor Century Media quenches your thirst–or if metal just isn’t your thing–check out Amazon.com’s free music section.  You need an Amazon account, of course, but signing up unlocks a couple thousand legit songs (the 40,000-plus miscellaneous songs are just that, and most are not going to be worth your time).  Hits include “Gimmie Sympathy” by Metric, the techno beat “Homeless” by Fatali, and “Losing You” by Solange, Beyonce’s baby sister.  Ok, sometimes you get what you pay for, but if you’re looking for a few songs to fill a playlist, Amazon really does have a ton of free options (search for “samplers,” for example).

Lastly, if you have an Android phone or tablet (sorry, I’m not an Apple guy), be sure to check out “Play Music.”  Every so often they offer a completely free album.  Past albums have included Ariana Gande’s breakout album, “My Everything,” as well as Motley Crue’s “The Greatest Hits.”

To get to the store, press the three lines on the top left and press “Shop.”  Scroll down a little until you get to “Free Music.”  At the time of this post, options include “Ain’t It Fun,” by Paramore, and “Good Riddance,” by Green Day.  Additionally, if you click the “Free” banner, you will be directed to the Antenna Sampler, a 16-song, multi-genre mix.  According to Play Music, they’ll be giving a sampler out every month.

Have a free music solution that isn’t here?  Let me know in the comments.

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The End of ‘Winamp?’

For better or worse, technology is ever changing.  Most of the time I hold on to a good stable program for as long as I can, avoiding updates with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.  But sometimes you find a product that you trust–or one that annoys the heck out of you until you fold.

For over ten years, Winamp has been my choice for playing music.  It’s one of the few programs I’m eager to update, mostly because of the annoying pop-ups on first start.  Late December I noticed Winamp’s latest cry for help created crash-worthy script errors until I completed said update.  To avoid that mess, I decided to give it a go.  To my shock, the download page suggested that, after 15 years of service, Winamp was being discontinued.

Winamp.com and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download. Please download the latest version before that date. See release notes for latest improvements to this last release.
Thanks for supporting the Winamp community for over 15 years.

The above disclaimer isn’t entirely accurate.  The big “FREE DOWNLOAD” button is seemingly devoid of Javascript functionality, but if you scroll down you can still download the “Lite” version (4 MB).  The Lite version, however, does trigger a McAfee pop-up regarding a warning risk (phishing or other scams).  If you do some further hacking, you should be able to find a few previous versions easily, but use these at your own risk, of course:

5.61 — http://download.nullsoft.com/winamp/client/winamp561_full_emusic-7plus_en-us.exe
5.62 — http://download.nullsoft.com/winamp/client/winamp562_full_emusic-7plus_en-us.exe
5.63 — http://download.nullsoft.com/winamp/client/winamp563_full_emusic-7plus_en-us.exe
5.64 — http://download.nullsoft.com/winamp/client/winamp564_full_emusic-7plus_en-us.exe
5.65 — http://download.nullsoft.com/winamp/client/winamp565_full_emusic-7plus_en-us.exe

I’m sure someone more tech savvy (or someone using an advanced Google search) might be able to find other archived versions.  But how, or why, is Winamp done?

Winamp began in 1997 under Nullsoft, which was bought by AOL in 1999.  The buyout led to SHOUTcast’s popularity, and all the other fun Winamp radio stuff, while the Nullsoft llama ran supreme.  15 years later, and Winamp will now become property of Radionomy.com, “an international aggregator of online radio stations headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.”

As of right now, no one really knows the full extent of what Radionomy will do.  But while we can still use and download versions of Winamp, I thought it would be fun to go over two great uses of Winamp aside from using it as a music player or digital radio streamer, or two great reasons as to why Winamp is all I used over the last decade plus over other programs, such as the bulky Windows Media Player.

#1) Meta Tags
One of the coolest features of Winamp is the ability to edit song meta tags, the things that show up on your MP3 player like Song Title, Artist, etc.  For anyone who makes music, or has to deal with mislabeled ripped music via, oh I don’t know, Windows Media Player, the Meta Tag editor in Winamp is a valuable tool.

How do you get there?  Just right click on a song in the playlist panel, and choose “Edit metadata for selection…”  A great tool for music enthusiasts and quick fixes.

#2) WAV Output
The second coolest feature of Winamp is the ability to take any playable song and convert it to .WAV format.  This process is more tricky than Meta Tag editing, and you have to be careful of certain things, like turning off “loop” functionality (endless WAV output here I come), and, perhaps more importantly, you need to remember to change “output” back to “input” when you’re done, or else you’ll create a .WAV every time you try to start up a new song.

The first step is to find the menu, which should be in the top corner but might change depending on your Winamp skin.  After that, hover over “Options,” and then slide right and click on “Preferences.”

When you click on Preferences you’ll get a new menu which has a ton of options to look at.  What you’ll want to do is scroll all the way down and look for “Plug-ins.”

Write down or remember the current selection on the right. You’ll want to change the selection to “Nullsoft Disk Writer,” then select “Configure.” Make sure you check out the Output File directory, and I would suggest putting a check mark on “Output to directory containing source files.” This option makes it so you will get your .WAV copy in the same folder as the original audio file, which is quite handy.

Hit “Ok,” hit “Close,” then play a song as normal. The song should act as if it’s playing but there won’t be any sound. Instead, it’ll generate a .WAV file. Next, go back to Plug-Ins via the menu, and change the Plug-In back to what it was, such as “Nullsoft DirectSound Output.”

Why are .WAVs useful? Mostly for file conversion reasons. It’s a good, base audio file which can easily be converted to other types. Enjoy the .WAV!

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How to Remove GMAIL ‘Inbox Tabs’ for Android

Last Friday I discussed how to remove GMAIL “Inbox Tabs” for users accessing the service through a normal browser on a desktop or laptop computer.  But what about users running Android on a mobile device?  My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet (Android 4.1.1) gave me trouble at first, and I thought I should share my findings.

First, look to the right corner of your mobile device, and press the options menu (marked by the hand drawn arrow).  From this drop menu, press “Settings.”  If you don’t see this option, make sure you have pressed the options menu while on the Inbox screen (which you can reference in the top left corner).

When you press “Settings,” click on the second option on the left, which should be your GMAIL username.  You’ll see a few options to your right, including “Inbox categories.”  Underneath this header you will see what is currently check marked.  All you want to see is “Primary.”  If that’s not the case, press “Inbox categories.”

When you press “Inbox categories” (reference picture), you will be given the option to check or uncheck every category you want.  Notice there is no way to save this information.  This part is the tricky part.  What you will have to do is uncheck everything you don’t want in “Categories to Enable” (don’t worry about “Starred Messages”), then recheck, then uncheck again.  That seemed to do the trick.  When done, press “General settings” on the top left to go back to your Inbox, then press the “Inbox” button (top left) to get to your Inbox menu.  If all you see is Inbox and Priority Inbox, you’re set.  If not, start over again.

This time select “Refresh” from options rather than “Settings.”  Check your Inbox menu, and if there are still other categories go back to “Settings” and see if there are still categories that you need to uncheck.  This part, it seems, needs to be tinkered around with a bit.  Eventually, you’ll be free of those extra categories.

-G

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How to Remove GMAIL ‘Inbox Tabs’

Recently GMAIL upgraded their service to include something called “Inbox Tabs,” a way of splitting up the user’s Inbox into distinct sections based on where the mail is coming from.  In theory, the division is a nice feature, an advanced way of using labels.  But for those who want one Inbox, Inbox Tabs are just annoying.  Fortunately, it’s not a hard fix.


First you have to locate the options sprocket, which is in the right corner right below your GMAIL username.  Click the sprocket then click “Configure Inbox.”  From there, you need to uncheck every box on the left until nothing but “Primary” is checked, then click “Save.”

You will be given a small message stemming from your sprocket.  Click the even smaller “X” and enjoy your single Inbox.  For help with an Android-based mobile device, click here.

-G

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A Brief Introduction

For the past five years I have worked for Examiner.com in the capacity of a sports journalist and photographer who covers the Washington Wizards basketball franchise.  Through this opportunity I have met amazing people who care just as much or more about my favorite sport.  I have experiences best understood by fans as having a no trade clause, moments shared with those people I have had the privilege to meet.

From the tutelage I received from Kyle Weidie of Truth About It when I first began getting into the thick of things, to talking about Big Momma’s House 2 with Nick Young when he was still a Wizard (back in 2011, when I asked a few Wizards players for their Oscar picks), to the music advice given to me by Martell Webster (Modest Mouse and Brant Colella) toward the end of the 2012-13 season when I asked him about his Nirvana shirt, and growing up in Washington state (I am in love with grunge music even though I have lived in Virginia all my life), I have experienced more than I could have ever imagined, and I am humbled and thankful to those people whom have shaped my life.  The list is too long, but you know who you are.

Writing about basketball is but one facet of my life.  For those who are here because of that facet, you might know me as DCWIZ.  For those who know me through the MMORPG Ultima Online, you know me as G.v.P, or Lycanthropy.  For those who know me through college at George Mason University, or for those who know me prior, you know I love grunge music (as I mentioned), films like Fight Club, Goodfellas, and In Bruges (and other inanimate objects), punk music, hip hop, blues, funk, G.I. Joe, the Redskins, and all kinds of varied and obscure things in between.  This blog will go every place I did not go at Examiner.com, and some places I did.

Thanks for stopping by, thanks for reading, and stay classy, Internet.  Be sure to share your blogs with me, as well.  You know how to reach me.

-G/DCWIZ/G.v.P/Lyc/Etc

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