Pushing Forward Back January/February 2020

January’s gone…with the wind, but it was a good breeze to start the year at least personally. I read three books, including my first book of the year. I also got a Mi Band 4, similar to a Fitbit, to help encourage myself to walk daily. And I found a new place to walk and read on Saturdays: the library at a local state university.

The three books I read (even though I inexplicably overlooked the second in a post about my second book of the year) were:

  1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  2. A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard
  3. Over My Dead Body, the seventh in the Nero Wolfe series, by Rex Stout.

I joined, and then “unjoined” after talking two other people into it, an online Haruki Murakami Book Club. I also joined the Poetry Reading Challenge 2020.

Watched

  • King in the Wilderness (HBO documentary about Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • The Librarians

Listened To

  • The Undivided Five by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
  • Have We Met by Destroyer

February is starting slow and deliberate as I refocus my reading plans for the month and the year. I work two Saturdays this month, have off three Fridays (two before the Saturdays I work and another Friday, Valentine’s Day, as a vacation day) and am taking off Ash Wednesday as has been my custom for many years. My wife and I also will begin the month with our traditional watching of the movie Groundhog Day.

I think this year, though, while watching the movie, we are skipping the “sweet vermouth with a twist, please” and are going straight to “Jim Beam, ice, water.” We tried the drink Andie McDowell’s character Rita Hanson orders in the movie a few years ago and hated it, so we’re going with the first choice of Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors. Plus with the way, the month and year are starting politically, we believe we need a stiff drink. For that reason, we also are delaying our rewatch until Wednesday night – after the vote.

This photo pretty much captures how I feel about winter right now:

I’m feeling like Phil earlier in the movie:

It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to last you the rest of your lives.

But hopefully soon I’ll have his later perspective:

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.

Of course, the groundhog Phil today did predict an early spring, but as CNN noted: “Don’t get too excited, he’s usually wrong.”

To watch

  • The Farewell on Amazon Prime Video (Feb. 12)
  • Narcos: Mexico: Season 2 on Netflix (Feb. 13)
  • High Fidelity, the TV series on Hulu (Feb. 14)

To listen to

  • The Slow Rush by Tame Impala (Feb. 14)
  • Miss Anthropocene by Grimes (Feb. 21)

Oh, and obviously I’m not watching the Super Bowl. I had loose plans to go watch the Super Bowl with a neighbor, but as I’m posting this as the game is beginning, obviously the plans were loose. No biggie. I’d rather be reading.

#AMonthofFaves 2019: My Top 5 Books, TV Shows, Movies, and Albums of 2019

All this month, I’m joining Tanya & Kimberly at Girlxoxo and Tamara at Traveling with T for their annual #AMonthofFaves blog event – a fun way to recap the year that was. They have a schedule of topics planned out for 14 days and while I don’t plan to have a post for each topic, I do plan on having a post for several of them. To see the entire list, visit #AMonthofFaves 2019 [Blog Event] Announcement. Today’s topic is the fifth for the month: On the Screen or in Your Ear – What did you watch this year that you absolutely loved and did you see any movies inspired by books you’ve read – what did you think? Or, what are some of your favorite podcasts, audiobooks or songs / albums that you listened to and have on repeat?

I already covered my top 5 books in a previous post for A Month of Faves on Popular Books Worth The Hype, but I thought I’d include them here since it made the graphic below symmetrical:

A few caveats and explanations:

  • On Sunday, I also made a list of My Top 60 Albums of the 2010s, with the four of the five albums from 2019 included in that list. The only one I didn’t, i,i by Bon Iver, is because I chose 22, A Million instead for the decade.
  • I discovered four of the five TV shows through Hulu and found The Brokenwood Mysteries through Hoopla at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
  • I have not seen Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, The Irishman or Marriage Story yet, but my wife and I both want to see all three in the near future. I have a feeling at least one, if not all three, will change this list or at least be added to the list of my top movies for this year.
  • Powder in Space is technically not an album but a DJ mixtape by the Japanese DJ Momoko Goto, who produces and performs under the name “Powder.”
  • I had all five of the albums on heavy rotation this year and I anticipate that I will have one released last month, MAGDALENE by FKA Twigs, on heavy rotation in the coming year.
  • Four of my top five albums are on the The 50 Best Albums of 2019 list from Pitchfork The Father of the Bride, No. 25; Homecoming, No, 14; i, i, No. 16; Norman F***ing Rockwell!, No. 1, and that last one rightly so at No. 1, in my and my wife’s opinion. I like several of the other albums on the list including especially the ones at No. 2, MAGDALENE; Big Thief’s U.F.O.F. at No. 3 and Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors at No. 4, but I really haven’t listened to them a lot…yet, but I anticipate I will.
  • For all you bookish folks, the one movie on my list you need to see is Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which is based on the book of the same name by Lee Israel, portrayed brilliantly here by Melissa McCarthy. I have not read the book, but loved the movie (obviously, to include it in my top 5).

What were your favorite books read, TV shows and movies and/or albums read this year even if they weren’t released this year?

Pushing Forward Back October/November 2019

October was mostly a medical month for me: a colonoscopy (my first, yay) on Oct. 14, followed by a blood test on my prostate on Oct. 15, and then on Oct. 22 an arthroscopic surgery on my left knee for a small tear of the meniscus. The short of it is this: one polyp removed, all good on the blood test, and a small mass of torn meniscus removed and cartilage smoothed during the surgery.

But the month also included two book blogging events in which I was able to participate partially as the result of recuperating since my surgery: Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon last Saturday, Oct. 26, and Nonfiction November, which started this past Monday, Oct. 28. Before the readathon, I read two books:

  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer, which I started earlier in September.
  • The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland, which I picked up while “shelf-reading” at the library.
  • A Story To Tell by my sister Lisa Howeler 
  • The Best American Poetry 2014 by series editor David Lehman and guest editor Terrance Hayes

I started the month out with a couple of ideas for the readathon, then I changed my mind later to start with a clean slate and ended up with a different list of possibilities. When I finally did the readathon last Saturday, I finished two books:

  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 
  • The Score by Richard Stark 

I also started a third that I just finished last night: Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story of Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M.M. Blume. While overall I enjoyed this one, my favorite for the month probably was the book it was about: The Sun Also Rises. I had forgotten how much I like Hemingway’s sparse prose.

As for Nonfiction November, on Monday, I looked back at my year in nonfiction and picked my favorite nonfiction book of the year. Then over the next four weeks, I’ll be posting on prompts from the event. To see more about the event, see this post from one of the hosts, Julie, from the blog Julz Reads.

Also watched

  • Mindhunter, Season 2, on Netflix
  • Schitt’s Creek, Season 5, on Netflix
  • Letterkenny, Season 7, on Hulu
  • Narcos Mexico, Season 1, on Netflix

& listened to

  • All Mirrors by Angel Olsen,
  • Ode To Joy by Wilco
  • Crush by Floating Points

But my favorite new show, to me, has to be hands down: The Brokenwood Mysteries, of which I watched Series 1 earlier this month and reviewed briefly here. I am looking forward to watching more in November via Hoopla.

November starts with more recuperation, at least for this weekend, before I head back to work at the library on Monday. Also on Monday, I continue with Nonfiction November, which I will be doing throughout the month. The middle to end of the month promises days off for Thanksgiving and possibly for our anniversary the week before (I put in for a couple days before I left, but I won’t know if I got them until I return on Monday). If she still is doing it this year, I also hope to be participating in Thankfully Reading Weekend with Jenn of Jenn’s Bookshelves over Thanksgiving.

Among possibilities of what I might read this coming month are the following:

  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Heaven, My Home (A Highway 59 Mystery Book 2) by Attica Locke
  • Orphan X (Orphan X, #1) by Gregg Hurwitz
  • Ruth Galloway Series: The First Three Novels by Elly Griffiths
  • The Lord God Made Them All (All Creatures Great and Small Book 4) by James Herriot
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1) by Robert Galbraith
  • A Morbid Taste for Bones (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael Book 1) by Ellis Peters.

To watch

  • The Irishman on Netflix
  • Brittany Runs A Marathon on Amazon Prime
  • Good Omens, Season 1, on Amazon Prime

& To listen to

  • MAGDALENE by FKA twigs, due out on Nov. 8
  • Miss_Anthrop0cene by Grimes, hopefully out in November

How was your month of October? Read any good books, seen any good movies and/or TV shows, listened to any good music? What was the highlight of your month? What are you most looking forward to in November? Share in the comments.

The Brokenwood Mysteries, Series 1

Each Wednesday (at least every few months at this point) either my wife and/or I share what we are watching (either together or separately) in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” 

This week, I watched The Brokenwood Mysteries, Series 1 on Hoopla through the Free Library of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I’ll have to stop there until next month as the library only allows borrowing four items per month with Hoopla. Luckily, though the first season was four episodes so I was able to watch all of the first season, with my wife joining in on some and enjoying them as well.

The show begins with Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea) coming to the small town of Brokenwood in New Zealand to investigate a murder, and I was immediately hooked when he popped in a cassette of country music to the tape deck in his vintage but not-much-to-look-at car. The music for me sets the tone of the show and is brilliantly used, but beyond that, the characters not least of all including Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) and Jarded Morehu, Shepherd’s Maori neighbor (Pana Hema Taylor) are…well…fun to hang out with for about an hour and a half each episode. For me, I was looking for a break from Midsomer Murders, which after watching 10 seasons of, I’m growing weary. This was, and is, the perfect antidote.

So how about you? Watching any good TV or movies this past week? Share in the comments.