Spies, Intrigue, and Felicity: A Show I Never Expected to Like

Each Wednesday either my wife 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, in the spirit of the holiday we’re celebrating here in America, she gives her (spoiler-free) review of the show The Americans, which recently just ended after six seasons.

It happens to me with books. I pick something up quite by accident and casually begin reading, and end up clutching the book in a fevered dream every chance I get until it is over, when I am left with that curious emptiness once the story is fully told.

The Americans was just such a TV series for me. Recommended by a friend (Michelle of the blog That’s What She Read) quickly abandoned by my husband as “too complicated to invest in,” I continued on alone, watching most episodes during downtime in the wee hours of the morning at work. I argued with it, rolled my eyes a few times, and then the questions began mounting that I decided I needed answers to. In short, I was hooked.

The show, in case you haven’t heard of it, concerns Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a couple with two children living in Falls Church, Virginia, proprietors of a travel agency. Their house is nice (though I earnestly prayed that as the seasons wore on they would get rid of that awful wallpaper in the kitchen), their kids are occasionally annoying, and oh…they are Russian spies.

I credit Keri Russell for pulling me in. She portrays Elizabeth with such unapologetic brutality that you watch her to see whose ass she is going to kick next. And at the same time you realize she is the Alpha in this situation, like Tony Soprano or Vic Mackey in The Shield, you root for her, only occasionally swatting away the pesky reminders that these characters are supposed to be enemies. Is it close to reality? According to my own research, spying is a lot more boring than one might conclude, watching this show, and frequently less successful. This fascinating article details the experiences and exploits of a real spy during the same time period.

Elizabeth’s husband Philip, played by Matthew Rhys, is the conscience of the pair…and his struggles with some of the things he has to do raise the most interesting questions. Could a couple who lives seamlessly embedded in American culture and raise children here remain true to their mission without wavering for all that time? Elizabeth acknowledges at one point that things are “easier here, not better” but it is difficult to believe, given the backstory they have for her, that it isn’t both.  The show may not be strictly historically accurate, but as a play of drama, loyalty and moral dilemmas, it is excellent.

Pushing Forward Back June/July 2018

Pushing Forward Back June_July 2018
At top is a photo from my sister of my mom holding a photo of me when I was a baby. At bottom left, I took my dad out for ice cream for Father’s Day. We were joined by my nephew Jonathan. At bottom right, Kim and I got a bathroom selfie before the wedding of her sister Tracey last Saturday. Photobombing us is her sister Debbie.

Back at June

June was a pretty good month on the personal front, especially for three weekends in a row. First, on Saturday, June 9, I celebrated my 49th birthday. Then on Sunday, June 17, I went and visited my dad (and mom), who lives about 60 miles away, for Father’s Day. I also was grateful to be able to see my sister, brother-in-law, 11-year-old nephew, 3-year-old niece, and their new almost 6-month-oldest cockapoo/Shetland sheepdog puppy. Finally on Saturday, June 23, Kim and I (along with family and friends) celebrated with her sister Tracey as she got married near Cleveland, Ohio.

Blogging-wise, it wasn’t a good month, but then again, I was busy with other things. Highlights on the blog this past month were 25 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 50 and My Library Checkout June 2018. If you look at the list and wonder how I’m doing so far on doing some of those things, not great, but hey, I still have time to turn that around. We also got Hulu again and are enjoying watching especially older shows like ER, CSI, and My Name is Earl.

Musically, the two big albums this month were Kanye West’s ye and Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Everything is Love — at least for everyone else. Spinning again and again, though, on my virtual turntable was Father John Misty’s God’s Favorite Customer. I just couldn’t, and can’t, get enough of this album:

Forward to July

This month starts off on a high, with three days off for both of us. Kim has her normal three days off: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I took vacation days for Tuesday and Thursday, having Wednesday already off as a holiday for The Fourth of July. After traveling last weekend, we have no plans of going anywhere, but it will be nice to have the time off together. I have a feeling we’ll be getting together with our neighbors for a cookout on the Fourth too, but we’ll see. If not, I’m sure we’ll still have burgers and hot dogs on the grill.

Other than that, I only can think of one other thing that I have planned: the 24in48 Readathon on Saturday, July 21, and Sunday, July 22, for which I’ve signed up. For more information or to sign up, click on the link.

At the end of the month, I’m looking forward to this movie:

So how was your month of June? 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 looking forward to in July? Share in the comments.

My Library Checkout June 2018

Have you been using your library over the past month? What did you read? What didn’t you read? What are you waiting on? These are the questions of a meme called Library Checkout, led by Rebecca Foster of the blog Bookish Beck.

35721120Read

  • Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
  • American by Day by Derek B. Miller

The best of the pair was American by Day, a sequel of sorts to Miller’s Norwegian by Night. I say, of sorts, because I don’t think it’s necessary to read the first one to understand this one. But I would recommend reading the first one anyway, if you haven’t, because it’s just that good. This second one might be one of my favorites of the year. Of course, I’ve only read 15 books this year, so not too hard to say that.

Returned Unread

  1. Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia by Steven Soll
  2. Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
  3. Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A retirement and aging roadmap for single adults and childless adults by Sarah Geber
  4. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
  5. Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

I actually did start Ramp Hollow and Wonder Valley, with the former not catching my interest and the latter catching my interest but not holding my interest at this time. I’ll have to try it another time. It looks like a good one, but one that requires more attention than I had this past week.

For next month, I’ve decided to start with a clean slate. I emptied out my holds shelves and don’t have anything on them yet. I’ll have to see here in the next few days or next week what catches my eye. Once I do, I’ll let you know.

What did you check out from the library this past month, put on hold, return unread, did not finish? Or if you don’t use the library, what was the best book you read from this past month? Share in the comments.

Going to the chapel…

…and we’re gonna watch two people get married.

Kim and I are leaving tomorrow for a wedding on Saturday of a relative of hers, and by extension of mine. The wedding is in Ohio, just west of Cleveland, late Saturday afternoon – and actually is taking place in a chapel with the reception in an old school building on the same site.

As a result, we won’t be back until late Sunday and my normal blogging schedule is being put on hold until Monday when I will do my monthly Library Checkout post.

In the meantime, though, you can follow our adventures on Instagram with the hashtag #bryanandkimgetthehelloutofdodge, our new hashtag when we leave town. There will be no tags or photos of the bride and groom.

See y’all back here on Monday.

When everything on hold comes in at once

Okay, not everything came in, but virtually everything I had on hold came in at once this week, to wit, two books I had had on hold for several months on ebook at The Free Library of Philadelphia:

  1. Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda
  2. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

AND…another one that had just come in earlier in the week, on ebook from my home library: American by Day by Derek B. Miller.

Then at the end of the week, just to make things even more interesting, I checked out a physical book, The Lonely Witness by William Boyle, that a patron had said was pretty good.

So come Friday night, I was faced with choosing one of the four for my weekend read, which really would be Friday night and Saturday since I was/am going to visit my father for Father’s Day. Since I already had started American by Day Thursday night and was enjoying it even in the early going, I decided to stick with it, read a little Friday night, finished half of the book by noon on Saturday and then the other half later in the afternoon.

I don’t know if I realized that Miller had another book coming out until a blogger (I can’t remember who) recently mentioned this one. I previously had read Norwegian by Night, which was published in 2012, and which was one of my favorite books from that year, and American by Day is a sequel of sorts. Why I say of sorts is that this one features Sigrid Ødegård, a Norwegian cop, who from what I remember wasn’t a major character in the first one.

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The story picks up from where the previous story left off, but I don’t think it’s necessary to read Norwegian by Night to understand this second one. Here, Sigrid is sent to America by her father to find his son/her brother Marcus. Of course, it isn’t that simple as Marcus is suspected of the murder of his girlfriend. As serious as the story sounds, and at times is, Miller also injects a fair amount of humor into the novel, especially with the interplay between Sigrid and Irving Wylie, the county sheriff who is looking for Marcus. The story also is absurd at times (no spoilers, but if you read it, you’ll see what I mean), but I went with it because I was enjoying the book so much at that point.

Next up: I should read Pochoda’s book since I think I had the book on hold since February, but we’ll see. I have enjoyed Locke’s books in the past, so I might just go with that. I’ll keep you posted.

What did you read this past week? Anything good, anything worth recommending? What is on your radar for this coming week or the next couple of weeks?

Friday Finds | Father John Misty

Each Friday I share what I find myself listening to. It might be new. It might be old. This week, it’s relatively new, Father John Misty’s new album God’s Favorite Customer, released on June 6, and to which I’ve been listening almost incessantly ever since:

What is on your virtual turntable lately?

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Hulu

Each Wednesday either my wife 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, it’s the streaming service Hulu.

A couple of years ago, my sister got us a gift of Hulu for a year, but we decided that it wasn’t worth it for only two or three shows, at the time, the original CSI for me and Brooklyn Nine-Nine for both of us so we canceled it so she wasn’t paying for it and also because we didn’t want to continue it. However, earlier this year, when I learned from Kim of the blog Sophisticated Dorkiness that Hulu had “gotten” the complete ER, I was very tempted. I used to have several episodes of the series, especially the early years, recorded on VHS, and always wanted to rewatch the series, especially those first few seasons with Anthony Edwards and George Clooney.

Fast forward to last week: I was thinking about getting MHz Choice through Amazon Channels because we had watched an episode of Inspector Montalbano based on the brilliant Italian book series by Andrea Camilleri that we had borrowed via Hoopla from the Free Library of Philadelphia. I thought about getting the channel, but wanted to see what else they had. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize any of the other titles and one of the shows we wanted to finish watching (the third season), Borgen, isn’t available for streaming. So I decided that wasn’t worth it and then I remembered Hulu. Maybe it was time to give them a second look…

…and I’m glad I did. This time around, the streaming service had more shows than just CSI and Brooklyn Nine-Nine that we wanted to watch. For example, we had been watching Bob’s Burgers on Netflix, but then it was abruptly taken off. We’ve been wanting to get back to the show and now we can. A few other shows we are looking forward to: Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, The Shield (which we never did see the end of), The Bridge (both the original and the American remake), Spiral, Raising Hope (which I have seen multiple times, but want to see again…and again…and…), CSI: Miami (which I want to finish), My Name Is Earl (another one I have seen multiple times, but want to see again..and again…and…), Wayward Pines (since I recently just read the first book of the series), and Good Behavior (also written by Blake Crouch, who wrote Wayward Pines).

Yes, they also are movies, but not as many as Netflix or Amazon Prime that we are interested in seeing, but there is this one that we want to see again:

Do you use Hulu? If so, what do you recommend watching? If not, what have you been watching lately that you would recommend, either TV or movies?

25 Things Before I Turn 50

Today, I turn 49. As I approach half a century of life, here are 25 things I want to do before that milestone:

  1. Lose 40 pounds.
  2. Walk.
  3. Walk to work at least once a week during summer, fall, and spring.
  4. Run in one 5K.
  5. No food after 9 p.m.
  6. Go to bed by 11:30 p.m. each night.
  7. Wake by 8 a.m. each day.
  8. Alcohol only once a month.
  9. No soda except when having alcohol once a month.
  10. Read a book a week.
  11. Read 10 nonfiction books.
  12. Continue to play Solitaire and listen to chill music before going to bed.
  13. Sleeping with Bread daily.
  14. Along with SWB, photo a day of what most grateful for that day.
  15. Go to church once a month.
  16. Go on day trip once a month.
  17. Date night every pay week with Kim.
  18. Visit parents/sister once a month.
  19. Keep to blog schedule. Wednesday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday.
  20. Practice what you preach.
  21. Be quick to listen.
  22. Slow to speak.
  23. Slow to anger.
  24. Talk less.
  25. Smile more.

A few explanations:

Sleeping with Bread is a book by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn. It starts with this story:

During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

From there, the Linns show how to set up a way of using The Examen from St. Ignatius each night by asking two simple questions: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? Those questions can be worded in other ways too, but the idea is each day to examine your day.

The “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” is inspired by my mother who often quotes this from the Book of James in the Bible, Chapter 1, Verse 19:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

The “talk less, smile more” is from the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” from the musical Hamilton:

My Library Checkout for May 2018

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? These are the questions of a meme called Library Checkout, led by Rebecca Foster of the blog Bookish Beck. I’m joining in for this past month of May.

Read

  1. Pago Pago Tango by John Enright
  2. Pines, the first in the Wayward Pines series, by Blake Crouch
  3. Still Life, the first Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, by Louise Penny.

The first two were from Amazon: Pago Pago Tango, a Prime read, and Pines, a Kindle Daily Deal.

Returned Unread

  1. The Sinner by Petra Hammesfehr
  2. Inspector Maigret Omnibus, Volume 1: Pietr the Latvian; The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien; The Carter of ‘La Providence’; The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon
  3. The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

DNF

  1. Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama
  2. Dove Season by Johnny Shaw
  3. The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty
  4. A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes

With Six Four, I got bogged down with Yokoyama’s focus on the bureaucracy within Japanese police departments. With Dove Season, the story didn’t develop quick enough for my tastes, and with The Echo Killing, I couldn’t get past the premise of a small-town newspaper having extra staff to assign to one story. I worked for weekly newspapers for more than 15 years and I know that staffing is always being cut, even at larger dailies, with usually one person ending up doing several jobs so I just didn’t find that aspect of the story believable.

Currently Out

  1. Death at La Fenice, the first Commissario Brunetti mystery, by Donna Leon

On Hold

  1. Inspector Maigret Omnibus, Volume 1: Pietr the Latvian; The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien; The Carter of ‘La Providence’; The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon
  2. The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
  3. Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A retirement and aging roadmap for single adults and childless adults by Sarah Geber
  4. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
  5. Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

Many of these haven’t changed from last month, but I hope by next month to say that I have gotten a few of them.

What did you check out from the library this past month, put on hold, return unread, did not finish? Or if you don’t use the library, what was the best book you read from this past month? Share in the comments.

To see what I have been up to this weekend, check out The Four-Day Memorial Day Weekend Post 2.

The Four-Day Memorial Day Weekend Post 2

So instead of doing several posts today, tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I’m incorporating all into one post. It will be kind of like a readathon post, with updates throughout the weekend. I will start with the plans, and then update with the reality. – This is exactly what I said last Memorial Day Weekend and what I am saying again this Memorial Day Weekend, hence the 2.

Speaking of reading, I plan on reading one book a day, each the start of a different series either that I’ve been wanting to read or that I’ve recently discovered. I’ll mention each one on the day that I plan on reading it.

Friday night

Tonight, the plan is simple: eat burgers, drink booze, listen to music, and watch whatever the hell tickles our fancy. Kim won’t be drinking because she has to work tonight at midnight, but she will be eating burgers, listening to music and watching whatever the hell tickles our fancy.

Two minutes later: We’re watching Season 2 of Riverdale on Netflix. We really enjoyed Season 1 and are hoping the second season is just as good.

riverdale

Update: We watched only the first episode of the second season. We didn’t stop because it wasn’t good, but because we were listening to music.

Saturday

No. 1 on the agenda is reading. The first book up is A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes, the first of the Harlem Cycle. I’ve heard of Chester Himes mainly because of Luke Cage and thought I’d give him a try.

My sister told me that I need to see Paddington 2, because it’s “for all ages,” so I borrowed it from the library, and even though I don’t know if I need to see it, I’m going to watch the first one, which is available on Netflix. I’ll be watching on my own because Kim said she isn’t interested in watching, plus she’ll be sleeping as she has a 12-hour shift Saturday into Sunday and then Sunday into Monday.

Update: Sadly, A Rage in Harlem is yet another DNF for me, but I did watch both Paddington movies, with the second one being the better of the two. Even Kim watched some of the second and liked it. It actually made me cry. No kidding.

Sunday

Again, and this is going to be a theme here, No. 1 on the agenda is reading. The second book is The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari, the first in the Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne series. To be honest, I never had heard of these, but it is set in Philadelphia and I picked it up on ebook via the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The other “big event” for the day is the annual fly-in breakfast at our local airport, which I’ll be going to with our neighbors, Mike and Kathy. Kim might go along, depending on how her Saturday night at work goes (she’s a 911 dispatcher, so some nights are rough and she doesn’t want to go anywhere but to bed).

I plan on drafting a post for Library Checkout, a monthly meme the last Monday of each month where we talk about what we have checked out from the library, and then publishing it on Monday.

I also might watch the Coca-Cola 600, a rare night race, with Mike — in his “ManCave” – a garage complete with classic car and big screen TV that is behind their house.

Update Sunday morning: I went to the fly-in breakfast with the neighbors. Kim didn’t go because as usual with a holiday weekend, it was busy. Now, time to kick back with some music and play a little Solitaire, and then later some reading.

Update Sunday night: I did get a little reading in, starting Still Life by Louise Penny, which is good so far. I completely forgot about the Montanari book, to be honest. Ooops. Maybe I’ll try it another time. I then went to watch the Coca-Cola 600 with Mike. We made it to about lap 380 before Mike had to go to bed. I’ll probably listen to rest on the radio.

Monday

Yep. Reading again. The third book is Still Life, the first in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, by Louise Penny. This one, I have had on hold for—ever at FLP, but this past week, I found a copy in our library bookstore, so I picked it up. I have no idea why this is so popular (the hold at FLP is several months long), but I guess I’m going to find out.

In the afternoon, we are going to a picnic at our neighbors. Kim’s making deviled eggs and we’re bringing potato chips. Of course, there should be burgers and hot dogs too.

We were looking forward the fifth season of Arrested Development, but after recent…well…developments, we’ve decided…

giphy

Update Tuesday morning: I finished Still Life and we did go to the picnic at the neighbors, which was good. Late last night, we started watching The Americans as recommended by Michelle of the blog That’s What She Read. We like/liked it and will watch more, but not sure when. Maybe today, we’ll see.

Picnic at the neighbors.

A post shared by Bryan G. Robinson (@stillunfinished) on

Tuesday

Hmmm. I guess, reading will be at the top of the agenda. Shocker! The final book of the weekend is one I think I’ve tried before but didn’t finish for some reason, Death at La Fenice, the first Commissario Brunetti mystery, by Donna Leon.

Watching? I don’t know yet, but with Kim off, maybe it will be something we both want to watch.

How about you? Do you have any time off this weekend? What are you planning to do this weekend?