Stuck again and spinning my wheels

11720856After last week’s post in which I celebrated reading a book (“Yay! I read a book!”), I’m stuck again and spinning my wheels. I dabbled in Tim Dorsey’s The Stingray Shuffle after thinking continuing my trip to Florida that I started with Carl Hiaasen’s Double Whammy might be a good idea. A few chapters into Dorsey’s book, I decided I couldn’t take the multiple stories that I wasn’t really following and didn’t have the time to wait for them to connect, so I abandoned  it. Now I’ve picked up the second Inspector Rebus, Hide & Seek, by Ian Rankin (on ebook) from the hold shelf at the Free Library of Philadelphia and am enjoying its focus on one story.

I think I’m learning that I’m very single-minded when it comes to my reading in terms of plot. I can’t juggle multiple stories in my mind – something that makes me think I’m going to be returning Jo Nesbø’s latest Harry Hole novel The Thirst to the library tomorrow unread. I read a synopsis of the story or stories and am thinking I’m not going to be able to keep track of the multiple threads. Plus I know someone else is waiting for the book and I’d rather they be able to enjoy it. I was going to wait until Memorial Day Weekend to give it more attention then, but I might as well just let it go now so that the next patron can enjoy. It will be there when, and if, I want to return to it.

Just like last week, other than reading, I’m continuing to work at the library and my wife Kim and I are watching various shows on Netflix, which we’re writing a series about on the Wednesdays of this month. The first Wednesday, I shared my favorite Netflix shows; the second Wednesday, Kim shared her favorite shows on Netflix; and this past Wednesday, we shared our top 5 favorite Netflix shows.  Then  on the last two Wednesdays, I’ll share my favorite Amazon shows and Kim will share hers.

This week, I also tested out two new shows, now on Netflix, Wynonna Earp and Riverdale, the latter of which I’ve convinced Kim to watch. Both were good, but with Riverdale being the more intriguing of the two as it is a reboot of the Archie comics. I’ll be honest that I just wanted to see what they’d do with the comics and I have to say only a few episodes in to Season 1, I’m fairly impressed. Wynonna Earp, meanwhile, is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer mashup with a western and I’ve only seen the first episode, but it’s intriguing enough for me to try more soon.

This afternoon, though, speaking of spinning wheels, Kim, I, and two neighbors are going to watch this cinematic classic on the big screen (yee haw!):

 

What are you up to the last day of this weekend? Reading, watching, or listening to anything good? As for what I’m listening to, lately sadly it’s been Chris Cornell songs, 10 of which I highlighted in a blog post on Friday.

Our Top 5 favorite Netflix shows

Bryan & Kim's FaVEvery Wednesday this month, my wife Kim and I are doing a series on our favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime TV shows. The first week I picked my favorite Netflix shows; last week, Kim, her favorite Netflix shows; this week, our favorite Netflix shows, the ones we watch together. Then on the last two Wednesdays of the month, we’ll finish with our favorite Amazon Prime shows: mine, then hers. 

We had about 10 to start with, but then narrowed it down to these five, in alphabetical order. All the commentary this time is from Kim, because I didn’t have anything to say, beyond yes, you need to watch these.

Arrested Development

This was the show that made me love narrated comedy and Jessica Walter, who I’m convinced is fantastic in everything. Painfully awkward, joyfully absurd, you can’t help but pick your favorite Bluth (or Fünke) and root for them. I didn’t love the final season as completely as the others but it was still good.

Bloodline

This story of “good people who did a bad thing” unspools like great Shakespearean tragedy. You know it can’t end well, but you can’t look away. The third season will premiere Friday, May 26.

Dear White People

Watch this show. Have a discussion. Watch it again. Talk and listen. Mostly listen. Don’t let anyone who hasn’t seen it or whose back is up about it tell you what it’s about. Listen until you hear something you needed to understand.

Master of None

This show is like that delicious foreign film you want everyone to sit down and watch and you are frustrated because most of them won’t and they are missing out. It is beautiful. Aziz Ansari learned Italian for you. Watch his show. The second season premiered May 12.

Stranger Things

If you were like me in junior high, these kids were your friends. You had that bike, that room, your mom had that car. This is half the fun. The rest is the Stephen King flavored mystery and Stand by Me camaraderie. The second season is set to premiere October 31, 2017.

So have you seen any of these? What did you think? If not, tell us some of your favorite TV shows wherever you watch them. What are some of your favorites?

Yay! I read a book!

13068 I don’t know what it is, but for the first part o0f this month, nothing has been grabbing me reading-wise. I had the second Nero Wolfe mystery, The League of Frightened Men, by Rex Stout out on ebook from Overdrive from the Free Library of Philadelphia since the end of last month, but for some reason, I just didn’t pick it up to read. I have the second Inspector Rebus, Hide & Seek, by Ian Rankin on hold, also on ebook at FLP, but it seems to be taking forever for it to come in. Finally, I decided to retry the one at left.

I’ve wanted to read Hiaasen for a while after hearing his name in connection with fellow Floridian authors and also journalists Dave Barry (The Miami Herald) and Tim Dorsey (The Tampa-Bay Tribune), both of whom I’ve read a little of and enjoyed. I stopped this one at the time, because I wasn’t in the mood for the silliness, but yesterday, I thought I’d try it again — and I’m glad I did. I read it yesterday afternoon as it became the first book I finished this month. Now based on this one, I’ve picked up the second one in the series, Native Tongue. I also checked out the fifth in Dorsey’s Serge Storms series, The Stingray Shuffle, when I checked out Double Whammy. Maybe I’m thinking of Florida because the weather here later this week is supposed to go up to the high 80s (Fahrenheit), which is unusual for us in northcentral Pennsylvania in May. I don’t know.

Other than reading, I’m continuing to work at the library and my wife Kim and I are watching various shows on Netflix, which we’re writing a series about on the Wednesdays of this month. The first Wednesday, I shared my favorite Netflix shows; this past Wednesday, Kim shared her favorite shows on Netflix; and this coming Wednesday, we share our favorite Netflix shows.  Then  on the last two Wednesdays, I’ll share my favorite Amazon shows and Kim will share hers. Semi-spoiler: One of our favorite Netflix shows is Master of None, and on Friday, the second season came out and we binge-watched the first eight episodes Friday night, then finished the last two episodes last night. It was/is the perfect binge-watching show (I think we did the same with the first season) and even as I’m drafting this Saturday night, I’m listening to a playlist on Google Play Music of songs from the second season.

I’ll leave you with this playlist I found on YouTube of music from the second season:

How has your reading been going so far this month? Any you’d recommend to others? Watching or listening to anything good? Share in the comments.

Album of the Month for April 2017: Mono No Aware

At the end of last month, I wrote about my Book of the Month for April and also our Movie of the Month. I was going to tell you my  Album of the Month then too, but never got around to it then so now here it is my…

Album of the Month for April 2017

homepage_large.2253c3cbTitle: Mono No Aware
Artist: Various Artists
Label: PAN
Release Date: March 17, 2017

Yes, I know it was released in March. However, I didn’t see the review for it in Pitchfork until April 4. And I knew I had to give it a listen, especially after Pitchfork executive editor Mark Richardson described the album like this:

Each track on Mono No Aware is distinctive enough to represent a personal approach, but there are clear connections between them that make the mix feel like a unified whole. A rustling noise lends a given track a kind of “floor,” an earthy grounding absent when purely digital tones hang in a silent space. Small scrapes, tape hiss, and hushed knocks and clangs wind through the album, offering a tactile sense of hearing music in a room.

Small scrapes, tape hiss, and hushed knocks and clangs…that is the kind of music, yes, machine music that I enjoy. And after Richardson further explained individual tracks,

In “Exasthrus (Pane)” by M.E.S.H. (Berlin-based artist James Whipple), clouds of synths are mixed with the sound of feet moving across the floor and rain beating against glass, creating an enveloping nocturnal scene with an undercurrent of tension. “Eliminator” by Helm (London’s Luke Younger) sounds like music enclosed by a copper pipe, the drones echoing in the distance and escaping in a cloud of mist. Kouligas himself contributes “VXOMEG,” which starts with a blast of noise and then transforms into a kind of rusted-out wind chime, the sound of industry meeting the natural world.

I was hooked, listened to the album, and not surprisingly loved it. The set assembled by Bill Kouligas, head of the PAN label based in Berlin, is perfect headphone music. Don’t believe me, give a listen yourself here:

A close second for me was this album, two volumes of the best Italian house music from 1989 to 1993, and a bit more upbeat than Mono No Aware and perfect for summer:

Which album from last month or from any time this year has been on your virtual turntable?

Kim’s favorite TV shows on Netflix 

Bryan & Kim's FaVEvery Wednesday this month, my wife Kim and I are doing a series on our favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime TV shows. Last week I picked with my favorite Netflix shows; now this week, Kim, her favorite Netflix shows; next week, our favorite Netflix shows, the ones we watch together. Then on the last two Wednesdays of the month, we’ll finish with our favorite Amazon Prime shows: mine, then hers. 

Kim’s Pick Six

Sense8

At this point, most people are fans or not. If you haven’t checked it out yet…do. This show is a complex, delicious feast for the senses. it is not one to give half your attention to while thumbing through Instagram. The mythology is complex — much like The Matrix, without the ‘Morpheus Explains it All to You’ moment — the visuals fantastic and rich. The series, which Caroline Siede of The A.V. Club calls “An abstract commentary on human experience,” is shot on location all over the world, crossing realms of class, culture, gender and orientation for eight people who share an uncommon connection. Editor’s Note: Don’t read the article until you’ve watched Season 2, Episode 4. Will it continue to make sense within its own rules? I don’t know. Is it compelling enough to ride it out and see? Most definitely.

This scene from Season 1 shows a moment where all the sensates connect and it was for me the moment when I knew that no matter what, I was hooked.

Velvet

Set in a lavish department store in 1950s post-Franco Spain, the basic story sounds eerily similar to the BBC’s The Paradise, with all the delicious melodrama of a nighttime soap. Alberto is the heir to the store, Ana, a dressmaker and niece to the head of personnel. Theirs is a love that begins in childhood, with the usual roadblocks of class and expectation. The set design is a feast for the eyes, the characters adorable, and bonus, Miguel Angel Silvestre is in this show too but gets more screen time than Sense8′s Lito so if you enjoy him, there you go. The music gets a little annoying, but the characters are fun, it is surprisingly moving, your Spanish will improve, and did I mention that Miguel Angel Silvestre is in this one too?

The clip isn’t subtitled but just..enjoy.

The Time In Between

One thing is certain: Spain’s Antena 3 will spend the money for gorgeous production. This series, a historical fiction based on a novel by Maria Duenas, concerns the time period before the one depicted in Velvet. Adriana Ugarte is Sira, a woman who finds herself in Tangiers in very different circumstances from what she anticipated, having fled Franco’s Spain and, owing a debt, uses her talents as a seamstress to earn money and establish a life for herself there. I watched this to ease my Velvet withdrawal and ended up liking it a tiny bit more. Miguel is not in this one, but if you watch Velvet first, you will spy some familiar faces.

Narcos

I started watching this show for one reason: Wagner Moura. This excellent Brazilian actor, perhaps better know for his Elite Squad films, was playing Pablo Escobar. I was just too young to care about Escobar and drug cartels when it was all happening so I thought it might be interesting to see how the history was treated in this series. Told via Goodfellas-style narration by DEA agent Steve Murphy (played by Boyd Holbrook, though it will annoy you how much he looks like Ryan Gosling, try to ignore it), the series follows the rise and fall of Escobar and beyond, since a third series is in production.

I’m not obsessed or anything, but…MIGUEL ANGEL SILVESTRE is in Season 3! Editor’s/Husband’s Note: She sure sounds obsessed to me *rolling eyes*. My favorite character is Agent Murphy’s Partner Javier Pena, played by Pedro Pascal who will forever and ever amen be referred to in my head as Chilean Burt Reynolds.

Derek

I can’t get Bryan to like this show. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that he, like me, can’t decide whether he likes Ricky Gervais or not. Editor’s/Husband’s note: Meh. Even as a semi-fan I sometimes find his comedy of awkwardness too painful to watch. Check the original UK version of The Office if you don’t know what I mean. Editor’s/Husband’s Note: I did like that show. He’s also convinced that the show is making fun of someone who is mentally challenged.

It is not.

Given the chance, the show, set in a senior care home, is raw, honest, hilarious and heartbreaking. Derek sees the good in everyone, absolutely everyone, no matter how rough and dismissible they are — even Kevin, a hard-drinking, misogynistic, occasionally incontinent hanger-on who by all rights should be barred from the premises. Just when you think there’s not a shred of self-reflection in Kev, you see that he’s been paying attention all along.

Grace and Frankie

I wasn’t sure, at the outset. The premise seemed shaky, mostly because I wasn’t buying Sam Waterston’s Saul and Martin Sheen’s Robert as a couple. Sometimes it is hard to let go of people you think of so strongly identified in former roles and see them as something else. Like President Bartlett and Jack McCoy. But Lily Tomlin, who I have dearly loved since I was five and she was Edith Ann in a giant rocking chair, kept me in. And before long I loved them all. Just…watch this show, laugh, and marvel at the fact that Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin will be 80 and 78 respectively this year. And then plot how you will be that cool at their age. I know I have.

So have you seen any of these? What did you think? If not, tell us some of your favorite TV shows wherever you watch them. Already via last week’s comments, a few favorites include The Handmaid’s Tale, Homeland, and The Night Manager. What are some of your favorites?

My favorite TV shows on Netflix

Bryan & Kim's FaVStarting today and running every Wednesday in May, my wife Kim and I are doing a series on our favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime TV shows, alternating among mine, ours, and hers. Today, I start with my favorite TV shows on Netflix.

My favorite TV shows on Netflix are three Marvel shows: Daredevil. Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones, and in that order. Ostensibly missing is Iron Fist, which, to be honest, I didn’t give a chance after seeing the horrible reviews and hearing about its negative portrayal of women and Asians. I think I’ll just skip that one and wait for The Defenders, which brings all of them together.

Out of the first three mentioned, Daredevil was, and is, the standout, especially for its first season, for me. It was dark, it was gritty, it was unlike anything I’d seen on TV in terms of a comic book adaptation, and its action sequences kicked ass.  Vincent D’Onofrio also took that first season to a whole other level in his role as the “bad guy” Wilson Fisk. The other two, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, are good, but nothing in my mind like that first season of Daredevil, in which we were introduced to a new darker version of the Marvel universe. However, both Cage and Jones are definitely worth watching, especially for their leads, Mike Colter and Krysten Ritter.

 

 

What are your favorite TV shows on Netflix? Any you’d highly recommend?

Tune in next week to see what Kim’s favorite TV shows on Netflix are.

My Library Checkout – April 2017

librarycheckout2 Have you been using your library over the past month? What did you read? What didn’t you read? What are you waiting on? The linky goes up the last Monday of every month, and will stay open through the 15th, so click the button at left to go to Charleen’s post for this month to add your Library Checkout post to the Linky there.

Read

  1. Fer-de-lance, the first Nero Wolfe, by Rex Stout
  2. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams
  3. Knots and Crosses, the first Inspector Rebus, by Ian Rankin
  4. Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction by Eric Foner

The best of the quartet was The Book of Joy, which was highlighted in my new feature Book of the Month yesterday. I also have started two other new features: Album of the Month and Movie of the Month, with the first Movie of the Month being Lion, and the first Album of the Month still to be decided and written about.

Currently Out/On Hold

I only have one book out: The League of Frightened Men, the second Nero Wolfe, by Rex Stout, and only two on hold: Hide and Seek, the second Inspector Rebus, by Ian Rankin, and Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. I am rereading the Nero Wolfe mysteries, most of which I have read previously, and always wanted to red the Inspector Rebus series, but for one reason or another, I never got around to them. Now I am.

What did you check out from the library this past month, put on hold? Click on the button above to go to Charleen’s post to add your own post, or comment there — and here, if you’d like.

Starting this Wednesday, May 3, and running every Wednesday in May, my wife Kim and I will be doing a series on our favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime TV shows Wednesday, alternating among mine, hers, and ours. Tune in this Wednesday.

Book of the Month for April 2017: The Book of Joy

29496453Title: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
Authors: His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams.
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 368

One of my goals for Lent was to read one nonfiction book dealing with self-improvement. I chose this one after a patron requested our library purchase it and then it was a deal of the day. I couldn’t pass it up. I’m glad I didn’t as it is my…

Book of the Month for April 2017

This is a new feature where on the last Sunday of each month, I will review the best book I read for that month. Likewise, I am doing two similar features at the end of each month: Movie of the Month and Album of the Month, with reviews of the best movie we watched that month and the best album I listened to that month. Earlier this week, I wrote about our Movie of the Month for this past month, and my intent was to write about my Album of the Month on Friday. However, since I didn’t do that, I will announce my Album of the Month sometime later this week.

Before reading this book, I had read one other book by the Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, which was in answer to a series of questions from Howard C. Cutler, an American psychiatrist. Like that one, this book is in answer to a series of questions to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu from Douglas Abrams, another American writer – over a week’s meeting. However, unlike The Art of Happiness, I didn’t find Abrams to be quite as intrusive into the conversation as Cutler was. Abrams did inject himself into the conversation, but I think it seemed more natural than when Cutler did it in the previous book.

360px-HH_the_Dalai_Lama_enlightened_translator,_Dr._Thupten_Jinpa
Photo from Christopher Michel, Flickr

I think also what helped was the inclusion of scientific research on joy and comments from the Dalai Lama’s translator Jinpa, or Thupta Jinpa Langri, the Dalai Lama’s principal translator since 1985. The only issue I have with Abrams’ inclusion of Jinpa is that Abrams doesn’t identify who Jinpa is, only introducing him from time to time with “Jinpa explained” or “Jinpa said,” which was a bit frustrating for those of us not familiar with his relationship with the Dalai Lama.

After setting up the impetus of the pair’s meeting, which was the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, the trio, or really quartet, of writers get to the heart of the book: the nature of true joy, obstacles to that, and then the eight pillars of joy. Those eight are: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. The main section of the book ends with a birthday party for the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Children’s Village with more than a thousand children, several hundred teachers, staff, and guests from the Tibetan Community and a brief final session before  Tutu leaves. The Tibetan Children’s Village is in Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama and his followers fled in 1959 from their native Tibet.

However, that truly isn’t the end of the book as the trio collect a series of “Joy Practices” or meditation exercises. The bulk of the exercises can be found in two categories: “Overcoming the Obstacles to Joy” and “Cultivating the Eight Pillars of Joy.” They are bookended with practices that Tibetan monks do at the beginning and end of each day.  For me, this appendix is what puts this book “over the top” for me as it just doesn’t tell you about joy, but also how to practice joy in your own life.

So what book that you read this past month would you choose as your Book of the Month?

Return here tomorrow for Library Checkout, a meme created by Shannon from the blog River City Reading and now continued by Charleen from It’s a Portable Magic every month.

Movie of the Month for April 2017: Lion

200136Title: Lion
Year: 2016
Director: Garth Davis
Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham

When I mentioned earlier this month that my wife Kim and I had seen this movie, all I said at that point was “Just see it.” However, now that I’m selecting this as my first Movie of the Month for April, I guess I should say something a little more about it so here’s a little more than “Just see it.”

The movie is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, an Indian orphan adopted by an Australian couple, who 20 years after leaving his native India, decides to seek out his family in India, using Google Earth. Through a series of flashbacks, we see how Saroo got lost and then eventually was adopted. Without giving any spoilers, this one is a tearjerker, but overall, it is a good cry as Saroo seeks and (slight spoiler alert) finds his childhood home. What makes this one transcend beyond a movie of the week on Lifetime and become nominated for six Oscars are the performances of the actors, especially Patel, the cinematography, and the story which could be cliché if told by others but as told by screenwriter Luke Davies based on Brierley’s book never does.

So what movie that you saw this past month would you select as your Movie of the Month?

Each month, I will select a Movie of the Month, an Album of the Month, and a Book of the Month. This Friday, I will share my pick for Album of the Month, then on Sunday, my pick for Book of the Month. Check back on both days to see what they are.