The Critic Turns Four

We now break with your regularly scheduled reviews, raves, rants, and random excerpts to celebrate a little birthday.

Yes, dear reader, as of today, The Barenaked Critic — at least, its current incarnation — is four years old.

Beer!

I was looking for a picture of a cake, but let’s face it: this is so much more appropriate. Cheers!

Admittedly, it’s only been in the past year and a half that I’ve really made a concerted effort to keep the site updated with something that ISN’T my old movie reviews, but still. Four years is like being middle-aged in Internet time.

Over the course of that time, I’ve written 137 blog posts (including this one) and had more than 8,000 views. Maybe they aren’t earth-shattering numbers, but it’s nice to see there are a few other people out there who have enjoyed this, at least a little bit.

To celebrate, here are a few stats from the past four years:

My first real post:

The Barenaked Archives: A Lot Like Love

I think maybe five people actually read it.

Most viewed post:

The Netflix Queue: White Collar

White Collar - Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) - photo credit NBC Universal

You knew this was coming.

Most commented post:

July #WriteMotivation: Week 2 Check-in

Apparently everybody loves Terry Pratchett.

Most views in a day:

February 20, 2012 – The Critic Does Twilight

And apparently everybody either loves or hates Twilight.

Most popular search terms:

barenaked critic – 238 views
domino – 128 views
white collar season 3 netflix – 82 views
white collar season 3 on netflix – 56 views
elizabethtown – 45 views
the gentlemen – 35 views

If I had $5 for every time somebody landed on my site for something related to White Collar or a naked actor, I could pay off my house.

Most random search terms:

Considering that I have “barenaked” in my title tag AND my URL, and I have about 800 various actors tagged throughout the posts, I’m going to discount every search term that involves somebody looking for nude pictures of actors and actresses. Because frankly, with that much stacked against me, I don’t think they really count as “random” anymore.

However, I’ve still collected some interesting ones:

“edgar rice burroughs real uncle”
Yes. John Carter was real. Watch the feed from Curiosity; it’ll run across him and Dejah Thoris any day now.

“lincoln high school softball award ceremony at la bellas”

Wow. That is AMAZINGLY specific.

“corpse bride naked”
Okay, I lied about not including anything with “naked” in the search. Because, Corpse Bride? REALLY? o.O

“facepalm reader”
Somebody with the ability to say exactly what you did to deserve this:

Double Facepalm! Now with Picard and Riker!

“animation film never open forbidden door with skeliton key evil black”

I searched this myself and ended up here. Why they came to my site instead of TV Tropes, I have no idea.

“ferret on chrystal meth”
I am actually THRILLED somebody found my site by searching this phrase.

“does brendan gleeson have a prosthetic leg?”
Yes, and he only drinks from a flask he keeps at his hip and he has a fake eye.

“+voodoo +man +hair +feathers +bird +witch +louisiana +movie”

Who is: the villain from my 2011 NaNo novel?

“how and to what extent do the use of detail and description support themes and ideas in the movie howl’s moving castle, and help move the story forward.”
Good luck on your paper. I hope you weren’t waiting till the last minute to research because, let’s face it, my review ain’t gonna help.

“making love hot no clothes lesbian”

You were so disappointed, weren’t you?

Thank you, everybody, for coming and hanging out with me. I hope the next four years are just as much fun as the last four have been.

Beer!

This one’s for you!

Beer picture by Bernt Rostad

August Camp NaNo – Week 2

I have signed up for the September #WriteMotivation! Are you going to do it? You should do it. It’s a lot of fun, and we’re a rowdy crowd. I love it.

Also, on a completely un-writing-related note: it’s raining. Hallelujah, praise ye the Lord, it is RAINING.

Rain by mxgirl85

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring…

Now if only it will keep doing this for the next two weeks. I don’t even care if it rains at the write-in on Sunday.

Camp NaNoWriMo Participant

Mmm, s’mores and writing.

Minimum word count for August 10: 27,419/50,000

My current word count: 24,119/50,000

Adventures in NaNoing: WELL. This week has been entertaining, to say the least. After getting so little written during the first part of the month (thanks to my birthday and wrapping up freelance stuff), I’ve written at least 2,500 words every day since Monday. (WOOO!)

Oddly, the week itself has been far more productive than the weekend, though that’s because I spent Saturday TRAVELING!

That’s right, I got a chance to meet several of the #WriteMotivation crew in person. Some I’d already met at OWFI, others I was meeting for the first time. It was a WHOLE lot of fun, and I hope we get a chance to do it again.

Also, I got a rejection letter on the project I’d pitched at OWFI. However, it was a very encouraging personal rejection, so I was a lot happier about it than you might expect. Like, bouncing-around-the-house-let’s-go-celebrate happy. There was beer. (Kind of makes you wonder what I’ll do if I ever actually get published. Probably explode from the sheer excitement.)

I have also been steadfastly avoiding White Collar season three. I know if I watch it I will get absolutely nothing else done, so I’m trying to keep myself away from it until I catch up with where I ought to be for Camp NaNo.

And this weekend is the August write-in! I’m so excited. We’re going to have a cookout and I’m going to make s’mores cookies. It’s going to be awesome.

Very Short Excerpt:
Completely unedited, as always.

Pain twisted her heart, as though someone had shoved a knife into her chest and wrenched it. Kiral gasped and staggered to the side, trying to catch herself on the edge of the desk.

“Miss?” The mapmaker jumped to her side. “Miss, are you quite all right?”

The woman’s voice seemed to be coming from very far away. Darkness closed on the edges of her vision, and for a moment, Kiral was positive she would faint right there in the middle of the mapmaker’s shop.

Go north.

That voice was clear and unmistakable. Kiral gritted her teeth and closed her eyes against the pain. I’m trying, you idiot.

Rain photo by mxgirl85

August Camp NaNo – Week 1 (And a Half?)

To all you people who have been finding my blog because you’re wondering when White Collar season three is going to be on Netflix Instant Watch: it’s up now!

Go forth and enjoy the further adventures of Peter and Neal!

Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) - the reasons I can't concentrate when this show is on.

Seriously, I’ll take any excuse to post a picture of these guys.

I have been very, very good and I have ONLY watched the first episode of season three so far. Once I finish my freelance articles and get caught up on NaNoWriMo, that will probably change. 🙂

Camp NaNoWriMo Participant

Mmm, s’mores and writing.

Minimum word count for August 10: 16,121/50,000

My current word count: 11,420/50,000

Adventures in NaNoing: You probably recall that last Thursday was my birthday, so I did a whole lot less “writing” and a whole lot more “beer and pizza and books,” which frankly is how every birthday should be spent. Between my gifts to myself, gifts from friends and family, and a hold at the library coming through, I ended up with seven new books in my pile.

I also went south to visit family last weekend, so I didn’t get much writing done. I did, however, get my ass thoroughly beaten at Settlers of Catan.

(Related note: Do not play strategy games like Settlers of Catan or Dominion with my brother. His turn is like: “I’m building a city and putting out a knight and I get five of your cards.” And then my turn is something like: “I get a sheep!”)

Anyway, this weekend is a #WriteMotivation get-together, so while I don’t expect to get any writing done on Saturday, I DO expect to have a great time hanging out in person with some of the cool people I talk to on Twitter. 🙂

So yes, this month is not off to QUITE as good a start as I would like (at least Camp NaNo-wise), but I have broken 10k and yesterday was a 3k day.

(Also, I’m very excited to work on this project because two characters who didn’t get a chance to spend much time together in my ’06 NaNo novel are traveling together in this one. They’re best friends and they are SO MUCH FUN to write.)

Very Short Excerpt:
Completely unedited, as always.

Mason dropped to the bench beside him and slung an arm around his shoulder. “Ari, Ari, Ari. See, I can sound disapproving, too.” He held up the flask. “This is a disguise.”

Exasperation tried to work its way out in a sigh. Ari pushed it back. Even if Mason acted like an idiot, nine times out of ten, there was a decent reason behind it. The task lay in figuring out when the tenth time was. “How?”

Mason spread his free arm and grinned. “I want them to underestimate me. You don’t have to show up drunk; they already underestimate you.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “If you’re going to be a spy, Sir Thane Jehms, it helps if one, nobody notices you, or two, nobody thinks you’re smart enough to do it properly.”

Camp NaNoWriMo & June Goal Updates – Week 2

Fun analytics fact: The most popular post on my site in 2012? The Netflix Queue: White Collar.

I attribute this to the number of times I have used the words “netflix,” “White Collar,” and “season three” in the past few months.

Also, it’s just an awesome show.

White Collar - Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) - photo credit NBC Universal

I’ll take any excuse to post this, seriously.

Goal updates!

1. Finish current edits on 2006 NaNo WIP!
I am halfway done with chapter 28, and I have five more chapters to go. So close, and yet so far.

2. Outline 2008 NaNo novel, aka my Camp NaNo project.
Pretty much where it was last week.

3. Write 30,000 words on said Camp NaNo project.
Pretty much where it was last week.

4. Finish Buzz articles by June 11.
Okay, so I thought I had set the second Sunday in June as my deadline. That was what I’d done last month, right? And I just wasn’t able to get the weird news finished on Sunday, but I figured it was okay because I got it submitted on Monday. Just one day off…or so I thought.

Turns out me-at-the-end-of-May was actually pretty smart, because, if you’ll notice, June 11 was NOT Sunday, but Monday. Which I didn’t notice until right this second, as I’m making this update. So yay, go me!

5. Read at least one novel for a brain break.
Remember how I said I would have to watch myself, because if I wasn’t careful, I would go nuts and read multiple books? And remember how I jokingly said last week, when I found out Courtney Milan had another series I hadn’t read, “Goodbye, productivity, it was nice knowing you“?

Yeah. I didn’t read one novel this past week. I read four.

I read both Proof by Seduction and Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan, and then reread Lord Perfect and Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase. (Frankly, I’d forgotten how much I adore Olivia and Lisle, the couple in Last Night’s Scandal, who are children in Lord Perfect.)

They are all awesome. Why haven’t you read them?

And now I am not allowed to touch another book until I finish these edits on my WIP.

And now, a Camp NaNo update!

Camp NaNoWriMo Participant

Mmm, s’mores and writing.

Minimum word count for June 15: 25,000/50,000

My current word count: 22,732/50,000

Adventures in NaNoing: This past weekend was our June write-in, which just four people attended, including me. That was all right; it’s summer. I know people have travel plans and vacations and what-not.

After the write-in, the lot of us trooped over to Rebekah’s new house to help paint! Because that is something else writers are good for: painting. Okay, painting and talking about how to kill people using only what you could find in a garage. (What? Don’t look at me like that. Right now, I’m trying to think of new and interesting ways to immolate people. IT’S FOR THE BOOK I SWEAR.)

Anyway. In part because of the painting, in part because of the “Oh hey site launches!” part of my job this week, and in part because I read four books, I think I wrote a grand total of about 5,000 words during week 2.

Also, I changed a secondary character’s name. This would not normally be such a big deal — BOY did it need changing — except that she has had the same name since I was fourteen years old and wrote the original short story. To say it’s been difficult to break the habit of typing the old name is a bit of an understatement.

Very Short Excerpt:
Completely unedited.

Kiral turned to the new voice. Emelyn stood in the doorway, holding a folded dress. She shifted from side to side. “Ari told me to bring you clothes and help you change.”

She prayed her voice wouldn’t quaver. “Did he now?”

Emelyn nodded, her dark eyes huge in her face, still pale after so many months of illness. “I asked why you needed me and he said your ankle was hurt and you were probably too cold to do it. He also said you’d probably argue but I am supposed to tell you to be quiet and let me help so you don’t catch a cold and die, you hard-headed crazy lunatic.” She cocked her head to one side. “I told him ‘crazy lunatic’ meant the same thing and he said some words I’m not supposed to say.” She sighed and stepped into the kitchen. “He gets so irritable when he’s cold and tired.”

The Netflix Queue: White Collar

As you may have noticed, my reviews of TV shows tend to be less reviews and more “here is what I love and why you should watch it as well.” And admittedly, most of the shows I like are usually over and have been for years. Even now, I can count the number of currently airing shows I watch on one hand: Castle, Doctor Who, and The Big Bang Theory.

Now I get to add another show to that list: White Collar.

As I don’t get cable, I haven’t seen any of season 3. However, the first two seasons are on Netflix Instant Watch, and I talked my roommates into giving it a try back in January.

Since then, we’ve watched the entire thing twice and are more than halfway through our third go-round. To say that we like it is putting it mildly.

In fact, I may be a little obsessed. As I’ve mentioned.

White Collar cast - Mozzie (Willie Garson), Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen)

Just a little.

Premise: Neal Caffrey is a convicted bond forger who is also suspected of numerous other crimes, such as counterfeiting, racketeering, and art theft, just to name a few. He cuts a deal with the FBI to come work with them as a consultant, and he’s put under the care of FBI agent Peter Burke, head of the white collar crime unit and the guy who caught Neal in the first place.

Now, a few reasons you should be watching:

6. It’s a show about heists and cons.

Do you like The Sting? Catch Me If You Can? Ocean’s 11? Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? If those movies top your favorites list, then this is the show for you.

I love heist movies. Having an entire show devoted to cons and heists, either breaking them up or engaging in your own, is like candy.

5. The dialogue

Oh my gosh, the dialogue. It’s rapidly reaching the super-quotable state, wherein I am no longer allowed to watch the show around people because I can’t help but say the lines along with the characters, or repeat said lines while giggling madly.

It’s not quite Joss Whedon level, but it’s so much fun, and all the characters get in some great lines.

An example (and one of my personal favorite exchanges):

(As Neal is examining a plate of the U.S. hundred-dollar bill)
Peter: “I’m not comfortable with this.”
Neal: “You’re not comfortable? I’m the one with the Men in Black bobsled team breathing down my neck.”
Peter: “Those are U.S. treasury agents, and you look like a twelve-year-old who’s just discovered the lingerie section of the Sears catalog.”

4. The clothes

I knew guys looked good in suits. I was unaware quite how good. Thank you, White Collar, for educating me.

White Collar - Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) - photo credit NBC Universal

I mean but damn.

3. Short seasons, no heavy serialization, and a light tone.

Since I’ve talked about all these before, they’re under one heading. Heavily serialized shows, like Lost and Heroes, turn me off very quickly because if you miss even one episode, you’re completely lost until you can catch the whole thing on DVD. It’s like skipping a chapter in the middle of the book.

I by far prefer the shows that are more like picking up a book in a series. Yes, you’re going to get more out of it if you watch it in order, but if you accidentally get started on book two or three, you’re not going to be completely out of your depth.

Thankfully, White Collar is similar to Doctor Who and Buffy in that while there is a story thread that runs through each season, the episodes themselves are fairly standalone. There are maybe 4-5 episodes per season that deal, heavily, with the overall arc.

Plus, the shorter seasons leave me wanting more. Like I said earlier, we’ve watched every episode available twice, and some of them three times.

Overall, the tone of the show is pretty light, as they’re dealing primarily with white collar crime. And sometimes, that’s all you really want: something fun that makes you laugh. No apocalypse, no “we must save the world,” just something simple. White Collar delivers.

2. Mozzie and Elizabeth

In order for a show to be really good, the supporting characters have to be just as good as the main ones. Fortunately, Mozzie (Willie Garson) and Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) fit the bill perfectly.

Mozzie is one of Neal’s oldest friends, a fellow criminal who peppers his speech with his favorite quotations and has conspiracy theory down to an art form.

He is Neal’s man on the street, bringing back information that Neal can use as part of his deal with the FBI. And, despite vociferous protests, Mozzie helps out the FBI himself more than once. (The scene where he very first sets foot in the FBI offices, in the second season, is a highlight of its episode.)

Elizabeth is Peter’s wife of ten years, and she’s a very good match for him. She’s very patient and perceptive, good traits when Peter has to call and beg off their plans for the night because of a case. She even helps him with work from time to time. Watching her help him flirt with another woman while he’s (sort of) undercover is HILARIOUS.

(Side note: My inner 8-year-old is PSYCHED to see Kelly Kapowski on TV again. She was my favorite character on Saved by the Bell.)

1. Peter and Neal

Really, the two biggest reasons to watch this show?

Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) - the reasons I can't concentrate when this show is on.

These guys. Right here.

Yes. They are just that awesome.

Neal is smart, suave and outrageously charming, all traits that have served him well in his life as a con man. He also has a taste for the finer things in life: good wine, good espresso, and custom suits. His ability to charm people gets him into almost as much trouble as it gets him out of, but the sheer chutzpah he has just makes him a ton of fun to watch.

Peter is probably one of my favorite characters ever. Yes, he’s the straight man in the duo, but it’s his steadiness that keeps Neal (mostly) on the right side of the law. Plus, he’s willing to follow Neal into certain grey areas…or at least, allow Neal to roam them a little more freely in the interest of justice.

I was concerned, during the first episode, that they were going to make him into the stereotypical workaholic agent who completely neglects his wife, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they didn’t go that route. They also take the time to show that he and Elizabeth really work as a couple, which is a nice change of pace.

And the one thing that bugs me: The product placement

I would bet my next three paychecks that Ford Motor Company foots a large part of this show’s bill, based on how many up-close shots and references we get to Peter’s Taurus. (Yes, I know what kind of car the character drives. The last time I knew what kind of car a character drove, it was a Delorean.)

For the most part, I can let it slide (although it does get giggle-worthy occasionally). However, there are a couple of times when it’s really shoehorned into the story, especially in tense situations, and that’s irritating.

I’m already suspending my disbelief that the FBI lets Neal get away with as much shit as he does, okay? Don’t push it with crappy car talk.

But, let’s face it. I’m willing to tolerate a little more product placement if it’ll keep the show on the air.

So, yes. Those are six reasons I love this show, and why season 3 is my “Yay! You made your goals!” bribe to myself for this month.

Have you seen White Collar? What do you think? And are there any good shows you’ve been watching lately?

Pictures are most likely copyright the USA Network.

#WriteMotivation Update – Happy Pi Day!

So we’re technically well into week 3 by now, but I’ve been busting it to get some freelance articles turned in before a deadline this week, hence why this update is so late.

And I may have gotten distracted by White Collar. We’re only rewatching season 2 for the third time this year. (Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m a little obsessed.)

White Collar cast - Mozzie (Willie Garson), Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen)

"Well, Michelle, you could sit down and work, or you could watch a show about two hot men in suits." "You say that like there's a decision to be made here."

So, here’s my promise to myself: If I avoid getting distracted and accomplish all my goals for this month, then as a reward, I can purchase season three via iTunes and watch shiny NEW episodes to my little geeky heart’s content.

Yes, I can be bribed. Keep this in mind, people.

Anyway, #writemotivation updates? Yes, here they are!

1. Upload at least 2 months of “The Barenaked Archive” posts.

DONE. Finished this one tonight.

2. Add at least 4 new reviews (movie, book, and TV).

This is about where it was last week, unfortunately. I’ve made a little headway on my other reviews, so I hope to have them scheduled sometime this weekend.

3. Edit 5 chapters in my 2006 NaNo novel, and outline the damn thing.

I think I wrote about 600 words at the write-in last Saturday? I got distracted by all the fun people I was hanging out with. Seriously, I’m going to hit this hard when I’m off work this weekend. (I’m on chapter 8. I want to get to chapter 13.)

4. Write another 10,000 words on my 2011 NaNo novel.

Yeah, I’ve not even looked at this in about three weeks. Bad Michelle. No cookie.

How about you? Making progress on your own goals? Or is March eating you alive as well?