Day 235: Couch Potato

Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead

With the Galaxy hosting the New York City Football Club, Tiger Woods in contention at the Wyndham Championship, and the premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, my Sunday was booked solid.

Unfortunately, Tiger quickly dropped out of contention, but that allowed me to get out of the house after the Galaxy game. The Galaxy looked like MLS Cup contenders again, thanks to Robbie Keane’s continued MVP form and Giovanni Dos Santos’ all-around excellence. Although I missed out on the game today (I tried to buy tickets after Gio had signed, which meant that it was already sold out), it was still fun watching the Galaxy dominate the game and I expect to go to the StubHub Center later this year for another championship game.

Fear the Walking Dead is on right now as I type this, but my wife and I are both finishing up some work before AMC reruns it. I hope it lives up to the hype, but I still prefer binging on shows 2-4 episodes at a time so we’ll probably watch tonight’s pilot before taking a few weeks off to stockpile episodes.

Nothing says couch potato better than zoning out on a bunch of zombie shows.

Day 145: Zombiefied

Rick Grimes is not feeling well.

Rick Grimes is not feeling well.

Over the last three days, I’ve been out of the house exactly once (for Saturday’s Star Wars Day in Rancho Cucamonga). Thankfully, my wife has gone above and beyond in taking care of me, nourishing me back to health while I spent most of my time in our room. When I was craving In-N-Out animal-style fries, she went out and got me an order to munch on while I zoned out on the TV. Now that’s true love.

Since I’ve been such a zombie lately, I decided to watch some zombie films. But either my illness gave me Attention Deficit Order or I’m getting a bad case of cabin fever, since I couldn’t stay focused for the entirety of Dawn of the Dead. I still wasn’t up for getting out of the house, though, so I searched for zombie short films and found some excellent viewing material.

Below are the youtube links for two of my favorites; one is funny and the other is surprisingly touching. The best thing about these short films? You can watch both in less time than the previews at your local movie theater.

Too Late


Day 99: Caught Up

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

SPOILER ALERT: I’m talking about The Walking Dead, season five (scroll down to continue)









We finally caught up with The Walking Dead tonight. Wow. I thought that things had slowed down once the group reached Alexandria. Thankfully, I wasn’t ready to give up on the show and the last two episodes were brilliant: tense, emotional, and action-packed.

Once the group made its way to Alexandria and tried to return to a pre-apocalyptic way of life, the series seemed to lose its steam. While the focus has always been on Rick, Glenn and Maggie slipped to the background, as did Daryl. Carol was more prominent and she’s never been more charming and menacing. Noah’s death was heart-breaking, just as Emily’s was at the midway point.

As the utopian Alexandria came crumbling down, the show got its mojo back. It was great to see Morgan again and how perfect was his reunion with Rick?

As Mrs. G. and I binged on the final few episodes, it reaffirmed my taste in television viewing: I’m a binger, not a weekly show type of guy (except for half-hour comedies about an Asian American family). We began the second half of season five in real time, watching each episode as they aired. After a few weeks, we decided we liked watching episodes a handful at a time. Not only can we watch when we want to, but it’s easier to follow the story. For me, it’s easier to remember characters and details when I’ve seen them hours rather than weeks before.

Now that season five is over, I’m ready for season six. I won’t be watching the premiere, though. I’ll watch it a few weeks later, along with another handful of episodes.

Day 27: Post-Apocalyptic Reading

Station Eleven e-book cover

Station Eleven e-book cover

While I was learning the ropes of the board game Pandemic this weekend, I received a notice from the L.A. County Public Library. Apparently, I had placed a hold on the e-book* Station Eleven and it was now available. I didn’t remember doing this, but since I’d only read one book this year I decided to download it.

In keeping with my recent binge-watching of The Walking Dead and my fascination with the Pandemic game, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven fit right in with my entertainment du jour. It’s a brilliant book that I can’t put down. In fact, it’s so good, that once I finished 75 percent of it, I decided to slow down my reading pace in order to savor its final pages.

Station Eleven is a beautifully written book about life after a pandemic wipes out 99 percent of the world’s population. Mandel’s handling of each character is masterful and I’m looking forward to reading her previous work. For now, I’ll enjoy her post-apocalyptic novel between games trying to prevent the apocalypse.

*Note: One of my favorite things about the L.A. County Public Library system is its selection of online materials. Through the Downloads section of their website, patrons can borrow e-books, audiobooks, and music free of charge. All you need is a library card (any resident of California can get one) and a compatible device. I no longer own a Kindle, but the Kindle app allows me to borrow books on my phone or tablet.

Day 24: Game On … Continued

Epidemic card from Pandemic. This is bad.

Epidemic card from Pandemic. This is bad.

As I wrote here, I received my copy of Pandemic last night and was excited to play. This weekend turned out to be busier than I thought, but I finally played a few solo games tonight. I love the game mechanics; the sequence of actions is pretty straightforward and there aren’t dice to roll or huge charts to consult during each turn. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out as it was designed, as a 2-4 player cooperative game.

I’m enjoying Pandemic so much that I’m in full-on geek mode right now, shopping for appropriately themed accessories to hold the game pieces (great idea, Tabletop!) or “Zombie Outbreak Response Team” shirts to wear while playing. Currently, I have no plans to enroll in medical school to learn how to fight infectious diseases … yet.

Day 23: Game On

Pandemic Game Board

Pandemic Game Board

Two days ago I did something I hadn’t done in eons: I bought a board game. As my wife and I were about to finish the first half of season five of The Walking Dead, we wondered how we would get our zombie fix until the new episodes were released. Although I enjoyed Dead Trigger and hadn’t downloaded Dead Trigger 2 yet, they’re still first-person shooter games that don’t offer  multi-player modes. We had fun playing Zombie Dice with our niece and nephew, but were looking for something a bit more challenging. A quick Google search offered plenty of zombie-related fun and we settled on the board game Pandemic.

While not exactly a zombie game, Pandemic’s theme is pre-zombie apocalypse: you and your team are trying to prevent infectious diseases from spreading and killing off the Earth’s population. You travel around the world, treating diseases and trying to discover a cure before it’s too late. The diseases aren’t named, but in our games one of them is definitely a strain of Zombie-itis.

What interested me the most is Pandemic’s cooperative game-play: two to four players play together, trying to beat the game. You share resources and do what’s best for the team, instead of trying to out-maneuver or out-wit your opponents. There are no advantages to withholding resources or trying to sabotage a teammate. There are various ways to lose, but only one way to win: cure all the diseases. It’s only possible if your team works well together.

Last night I watched the Pandemic episode of Tabletop, Wil Wheaton’s Youtube gaming show, trying to get a feel for the game. I also watched the instructional video on the Pandemic website and with these two videos, I felt like I had a good grasp of the rules and game play.

During a meeting this afternoon, I received the Amazon notification that the game had arrived. Yes! When I got home, I tore open the package, checked to make sure the game was complete, reviewed the rules, and set up the board.

It’s time to save the world.

Day 8: Zombies at the Cafe


Continuing from yesterday’s post on zombies, here are three other zombie-related things I like that I failed to mention:

  1. The Cranberries “Zombie.” I can make people laugh when I bust this out on karaoke night. Not sure if they’re laughing at me or with me.
  2. White Zombie. Okay, I don’t like all of their music, but I used to kick butt on their song on Guitar Hero.
  3. Zombie Dice, a game from Steve Jackson.

I came across Zombie Dice last year at the mind-blowing Game Haus Cafe in Glendale, California. The game was easy to learn and fun to play. A quick summary: you are a zombie. The 13 dice represent your would-be victims. Randomly pick three dice and roll them. A brain is good. A shotgun blast is bad. Footprints mean your victim got away. You can score the brains and end your turn or you can press your luck, get more dice and roll them for more brains. If you roll three shotgun blasts, your turn is over and you score none of the brains. First to collect 13 brains wins.

I wish I lived closer to the Game Haus Cafe. It’s a wonderful place, perfect for gaming, and we’ve brought my niece and nephew twice since it opened after a successful Kickstarter campaign in June 2013. Parking can be a pain, but the place is still worth five stars (read my Yelp review here) and they offer 1,000+ board games, along with some decent food and drink. It costs only $5 for unlimited play during your visit. The game selection is staggering: all of the classics are available, along with newer games, popular Euro-style fare, and obscure titles. Shelf after shelf of games, arranged by content, will make any gamer’s heart happy.

Two things I love about this place: first, there’s no wi-fi available, so you’ll have to talk (gasp!) to your buddies and/or opponents over games with actual pieces, dice, and tokens. Second, happy hour is Tue-Thu until 4pm: you’ll pay only $2 for unlimited play.

View of Game Haus Cafe’s shelves below (click the image to enlarge). There are two shelves around the corner that aren’t shown. It’s a large space, with lots of big tables, comfortable chairs, and, most importantly, friendly employees.


Day 7: Zombie-fied


The Walking Dead on AMC.

The Walking Dead on AMC.

As far as horror sub-genres go, zombies are probably last on my list, next to lovestruck teenage vampires. I always found zombies to be boring. Gross, yes. Fascinating? Exciting? Cool? No, no, and no. I liked the original Night of the Living Dead, but all of the other classic Romero films did nothing for me.

In fact, my most memorable zombie movie moment had nothing to do with the actual film itself (the remake of Dawn of the Dead). I was living in Santa Barbara at the time and my roommates and I went to see the Sunday matinee showing. About 20 minutes into the movie, a drunk guy walked in and started harassing the people in front of him. Words were exchanged, then fists were flying. The film was stopped, the drunk guy was tossed out, and order was restored. I remember laughing with my roommates and recalling how people freaked out years earlier when Boyz N the Hood opened, thinking gang violence would mar the film’s opening weekend, especially in urban areas. Obviously, those worries turned out to be for naught, since the real troublemakers came out on lazy Sunday afternoons in tourist towns.

It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I became a zombie fan. My wife and I don’t watch much TV, except for the local news and Jeopardy. However, we are notorious Netflix binge-watchers and after Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black (she finished it, while I ended up re-watching The Wire), we finally gave The Walking Dead a shot. We’d heard a lot of good things about the series, but I wondered how each of us would react, given my indifference to the genre and her preference for rom-com and feel-good movies.

The Walking Dead has been excellent. We’re finishing season three soon and we’re both surprised how much we’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s another reminder that we’re living in a golden age of television since another generic zombie film wouldn’t have made me care, but the long format of a television series suits the source material well. Watching these characters evolve from one season to the next, as the story has moved from surviving the apocalypse to rebuilding communities, has been utterly fascinating and engrossing.

Now that I think about it, I’ve probably overstated my indifference to the zombie genre. The Edgar Wright film Shaun of the Dead is something I can always sit through if I find it while flipping through channels. Dead Trigger was a game that I played constantly on my wife’s Nexus 7; the second she finished pinning things on her Pinterest account, I grabbed the tablet and started blast thousands of zombies.

So, upon further review, I’m bumping up the zombie genre in my rankings of horror sub-genres. And I’ll be watching every episode of The Walking Dead from the comfort of my bedroom: it’s much safer than a Sunday matinee in Santa Barbara.