Category Archives: Read or seen

Blah blah blah – books and Marvel

The year in reading is going fairly well in comparison to last year.  Sixteen books and novellas read (compared to 27 total last year).  The reading is up in part because of the January furlough: I had time to do things like go to the gym everyday, and cook a lot from scratch, and find things to do that were free since I was being frugal.

Favorites:  Knife Children, a novella by Lois McMaster Bujold, and City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty.

Disappointments:  The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (could not bear the second person POV) and Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs (political/policy reasons as well as irritation with narrative choices).

Honorable mentions: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone.

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SPOILERS for ENDGAME

I’m not huge Marvel Comics Universe fan.  I’ve never really been able to get into comics or graphic novels, although there are a couple of series that I’ve tried and liked.  But the whole Avengers/Captain America thing?  Eh.  I’ve seen maybe a quarter of the whole series, none of the Iron Man, Spiderman, Antman, etc.  Have seen various trailers and clips of the different Captain America movies.  Caught a couple of episodes of SHIELD and Agent Carter (which I really liked, go, Peggy Carter).  Movie-wise, I’ve seen the first Avengers movie, Black Panther (excellent), Infinity War (meh), Captain Marvel (which I LOVED), and now Endgame.  I don’t really have opinions about most of the wrap up of storylines, but I have to say I found the Steve Rogers wrap up disappointing.  Not because I expected him and Bucky to ride off into the sunset together, or because I dislike Peggy as the romantic love of Steve’s life.  The disappointment stems from the complete lack of agency Peggy had, and the erasure of Bucky’s importance to Steve.  Bucky was his childhood BFF, whom he apparently broke laws to rescue; they had one scene together and almost no dialog before Steve does the thing. Peggy had zero lines and was literally the reward Steve gave himself. Their relevance as independent characters was reduced to nothing.  I get that there was a lot to fit into the finale, but that’s shoddy character-handling.

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Year end summary for 2018

According to LibraryThing, I read 28 books.  I have two others still in progress that I started in 2018 and have stalled on a little, mostly because I haven’t had the patience to settle in to a long read since about Thanksgiving.  Several of the 28 books were the Rivers of London graphic novels, which I find to be easy/quick reads, although I don’t love the art particularly. The highest rated books were Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series, which I read all in one go, and two pieces of non-fiction: a biography of the Widow Clicquot and The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy.   The biggest disappointments (other than DNFs that I have stopped recording) were the two In Death books I tried to read: one had victim blaming and slut shaming, while the other had transphobia and showed a complete lack of knowledge/research about civil and criminal securities fraud investigation/prosecution. Stick a fork in me, I am done.

Theater and film:  Just film this past year, because I didn’t love what was scheduled for the then-upcoming theater season and so did not renew my subscription.

  • Molly’s Game
  • Phantom Thread
  • Black Panther
  • Annihilation
  • Tomb Raider
  • Love, Simon
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • RBG
  • Ocean’s 8
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Widows
  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Lisbeth Salander)

Travel

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Asheville
  • Rome – primarily for the food and the Italian Open 🙂
  • Spain – Granada, Sevilla, Madrid

NWHL – all the Riveters’ home games for the end of the 2017-2018, including playoffs and the Isobel Cup Final; all but one home game for the beginning of the 2018-2019 season (it was Thx weekend), as well as the neutral site game in Pittsburgh.

NHL – an embarrassing number of games, including playoffs.  But I didn’t renew my partial season ticket plan to the Capitals; in part because they jacked the prices up in a crazy way, and in part because I’m tired of being harassed and threatened at the games.  One of my colleagues swears the harassment should stop now since they’ve won the Cup, but the two individual games I went to early in the season (Toronto, VGK) did not bear that prediction out.

For baseball, there were just three games:  NYY, Marlins, and Rays, all in June and July.

Museums and cultural events…the Walters, the Heinz, so much in Rome that I need to write about.  Two Frank Turner shows.  Sunday in the country, which I went to more to be social than because I knew anything about any of the acts.

Professionally speaking, the beginning of the year was a grind.  The middle of the year and into fall were pretty good.  And then the end of the year was okay in terms of the substance of work but a nightmare because of the furlough.  (So much work is accumulating. It will take a massive effort to dig out.  And the longer it goes, the harder it will be to get current again.)

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Belated year end summary for 2017

According to LibraryThing, I read 22 books.  I probably started another 20 but I don’t count them if I don’t get past 100 pages.  The two highest rated books were non-fiction, Eight Flavors and The Woman Who Smashed Codes.  The highest rated fiction were The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles and Penric’s Fox by Bujold (novella).  The biggest disappointments (other than DNFs) were Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs (I think I’m done with her books entirely) and Prisoner of Limnos by Bujold (part of the Penric series).

Theater and film:

  • King Charles III
  • The Select: The Sun Also Rises
  • Macbeth
  • School for Lies
  • Hidden Figures
  • Wonder Woman
  • Atomic Blonde
  • Marshall
  • A Bad Moms Christmas
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Travel

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Beach
  • Portugal – Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto
  • Las Vegas

NWHL

  • February 4 – Beauts at Rivs, W
  • February 12 – NWHL All Star Game (Steadman vs Kessel, Steadman won)
  • March 12 – Pride at Rivs, W
  • March 17 – Beauts at Rivs – Isobel Cup Playoffs (Beauts won)
  • December 3 – Whale at Rivs, W
  • December 10 – Beauts at Rivs, W

NHL

  • January 3 – Leafs at Capitals, 6-5 Caps in OT
  • January 11 – Penguins at Capitals, L2-5, saw Oveckin’s 1000th point 😦
  • February 14 – Canucks at Penguins, W4-0
  • March 6 – Stars @ Caps, Stars 4-2
  • March 16 – Predators at Capitals, Preds 2-1 OT
  • March 24 – NYI at Penguins, L3-4 in SO
  • March 26 –  Flyers at Penguins, L6-2
  • April 14 – ECQF, G2, CBJ at Penguins, W4-1
  • April 27 – ECSF, G1, Penguins at Capitals, W3-2
  • May 1 – ECSF, G3, Capitals at Penguins, L3-2 in OT (ugly hit by Niskanen, amazing comeback down 0-2 in the last 3 minutes)
  • May 13 – ECF, G1, Senators at Penguins, L2-1 in OT
  • May 31 – Stanley Cup Finals, G2, Predators at Penguins, W4-1
  • October 11 – Penguins at Capitals, W3-2
  • October 17 – Leafs at Capitals, 2-0 Leafs
  • December 4 – Sharks at Capitals, L4-1
  • December 12 – Carolina at VGK, Carolina won in SO – Flower’s first game back!
  • December 14 – Penguins at VGK, L1-2, all about the goalies
  • December 23 – Ducks at Penguins, L4-0 (this was a hot mess of a game; Letang got booed because he was the biggest part of the mess)

For baseball, I know I went to at least two Orioles games, one vs NYY and one vs DET, but I cannot find the ticket stubs.

Museums and cultural events…the Walters, the Heinz, National Museum of the American Indian, and a bunch in Portugal.  Which I need to write about.  Two Frank Turner shows.

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2016 – year in review

Reading:

I read 33 books or novellas in 2016; that doesn’t count the books I picked up and put back down or returned to the library unread or unfinished, since I may circle back to some of those at some point.  The two best fiction reads were Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric novellas. Best nonfiction was Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies.  Biggest disappointment was Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

Also, I read an excellent original hockey fic on AO3. I really like the writer’s voice and style…but the typos and punctuation abuse make my brain hurt.

I started Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine on 12/31 but have not finished it yet; I think it’ll be one of my favorite reads when it comes time to tally up 2017.

Watched:

  • Fox’s Pitch series (please be renewed?)
  • The Crown
  • GBBO
  • Star Wars (mostly liked it, love General Organa)
  • Jason Bourne (meh)
  • Ghostbusters (loved it)
  • Star Trek (meh)
  • Love & Friendship (loved it)

Theater, Museums, Music:

  • Jan 9 – The Critic and the Real Inspector
  • March 5 – Othello
  • March 26 – 1984
  • May 21 – The Taming of the Shrew
  • Oct 29 – Romeo and Juliet
  • Dec 3 – The Secret Garden
  • The Menil
  • The National Aviary
  • Fort Pitt Museum
  • The Andy Warhol Museum
  • The Frick – the carriages and cars in the garage are amazing, as is the house
  • The Heinz History Center, multiple visits – Toys Exhibit, Pixburgh exhibit, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, glass industry.  The exhibit on slavery is excellent and awful.  As a white person, it was ugly and shame-inducing to walk through.  I cannot imagine how painful it would be for a POC, or even tell whether it would be cathartic or just rage-inducing.
  • ROM (loved the Chihuly exhibit)
  • Casa Loma
  • Bata Shoe Museum
  • AGO
  • Textile Museum
  • Gardiner Museum of Ceramics (loved)
  • Smithsonian National Gallery of Art
  • Garth Brooks & Tricia Yearwood concert (wow, not much music this year)

Sports:

Okay, this category, now that I look at it, is a little excessive.  Sorry, not sorry.  Also, I’m sure I went to at least one more baseball game, but I can’t find the ticket stub or a note on my planner, so.

  • Feb 22 – Coyotes @ Caps
  • Feb 27 – Jets @ Penguins
  • March 11-14 – Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas tournament, love this venue.
  • March 18 – Predators @ Caps
  • March 28 – Blue Jackets @ Caps
  • April 7 – Penguins @ Caps (makeup game for blizzard), WIN!
  • April 16 – Game 2 of the 1st round of the playoffs – NYR @ Penguins, loss
  • April 23 – Game 5 of the 1st round – NYR @Penguins, won the series
  • April 28 – Game 1 of the 2nd round – Penguins @ Caps, lost in OT.
  • May 4 – Game 4 of the 2nd round – Caps @ Penguins (OT win!)
  • May 13 – Game 1 of the ECF – TBL @ Penguins – ouch, lost, Letang got boarded (and knocked out) right in front of me.  It was ugly.
  • June 1 – Game 2 of the SCF – Sharks & Penguins, OT win.  The Goal (actually all the goals) was right in front of me!
  • June 5 – NYY @ Orioles
  • Sept 14 – pre-tournament SWE-EUR
  • Sept 17-29 – World Cup of Hockey tournament; 16 games.  So. Much. Hockey.
  • October 15 – Ducks @ Penguins (win!)
  • Nov 8 – Sharks @ Caps (Sharks win!)
  • Nov 16 – Penguins @ Caps (ugly, ugly loss)
  • Nov 19 – Penguins @ Buffalo (SO loss, man, Flower was so good in the 3rd and OT).
  • Nov 20 – NWHL Pride @ Beauts (posted thoughts/opinions about this over on tumblr)
  • Dec 30 – Three Rivers Classic (consolation game and championship game)
  • Dec 31 – Canadiens at Penguins (OT win!)

Travel:

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Buffalo
  • Beach
  • Toronto

Goals/plans for 2017:

  • Drop the Caps tickets, use the money to visit other teams’ arenas
  • Go to at least two more NWHL games this season
  • Go to either Italy, Portugal, or Spain on vacation (in February, maybe?)
  • Read 40 books
  • Make myself post more regularly
  • Find a tutor or conversational group to refresh/relearn the Russian I’ve mostly forgotten

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We sing songs about our friends in E Minor

I finished The Moor’s Account, which Rosario recommended.  I liked it pretty well, mostly because the POV was novel.

At the library today, I picked up a copy of After by Anna Todd; it’s New Adult, which is not my favorite sub-genre, but the fact that its tag line is “wattpad sensation” caught my attention.

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I’m so ready for hockey season to start tomorrow night.  My first game is next week.  And I’ve got tickets for an NWHL game 🙂

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Saw Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Rams Head Live on Saturday and the 9:30 Club on Sunday.  Beans on Toast and Skinny Lister opened;  I’d seen BoT before but never Skinny Lister.  I think their sound suits FT better than the other second acts I’ve seen at his shows before, which struck as a little too metal to be consistent with the sounds of BoT and FT.  And I was pretty entertained by the squeeze box/accordion player, who rocked out, and the upright bass player who crowdsurfed during one song.  I liked the set list slightly better on Saturday (it included “Eulogy”, “Worse Things Happen at Sea”, and “One Foot Before the Other”) than Sunday but enjoyed both shows.  The sound was better at the 9:30 Club; at Rams Head, the bass and drums made the lyrics a little hard to distinguish some times, at least I found it so up on the balcony rather than down on the floor.  I love that there is a tour flag traveling to all the tour stops independent of the band; it goes via fans.  The dude who brought it to DC was in front of me in the line to get into the show.  [I’m looking at his other tour stops and thinking hard about road trips.  But since he’s going west, it’s probably not going to happen; if he were going up or down the east coast, I’d be seriously tempted.]

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Documentary: Red Army

A week or so ago, Slava Fetisov was interviewed in the pre-game or intermission of a Red Wings game; I can’t recall if it was an NHLN broadcast game or NBCSN.  It was to promote the documentary, Red Army.  I missed the full interview, mostly because I tend to tune out during pre-game and intermission bloviating.  (Seriously, Mike Milbury, Don Cherry, and others need to stop talking.)  But I was reminded this past weekend as I checked out listings at my local independent theater.  Still showing Oscar Shorts and Birdman – nope – but also Red Army.

The title probably gives a hint about the material, yes?  It’s the name of the Soviet Army but was also the name of the army’s elite hockey team.  The documentary centers around Viacheslav (Slava) Fetisov, defenseman and captain of the Red Army hockey team.  It also covers the development of hockey in the Soviet Union, competition with the NHL, and the transition of Russian hockey players to the NHL following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In some ways, the film is heavy-handed and unoriginal:  do viewers need to be spoon-fed tales of how hard life was in the Soviet Union post World War II?  Possibly not, especially in the way the director/narrator did the voice-over as he talks to Fetisov.  On the other hand, there is a lot of Russian hockey history packed into the documentary that I was unaware of.  I’m looking for books on Anatoly Tarasov now.  And, dear godlings, the skating of the Russian team was gorgeous.  (I love beautiful skate work and passing, and would be happy if fighting and boarding disappeared from NHL hockey forever.)

Fetisov is an interesting interview/subject; he more or less ignores the interviewer, busy on his phone, until he wants to talk, and then he talks around some uncomfortable things.  By the end, the Minister of Sport appointment and photo opportunities with Putin kind of explain how he responded sometimes.  Of course, he was open about some really uncomfortable topics, like how betrayed he felt by his defense partner, Kasatonov, when he quit because the Ministry would not let him play in the US after promising publicly that they would let him.

The interviewees include Victor Tretiak, as well as Kasatonov, Krutov, and others.  Borrowed footage shows up from a variety of sources, with some amazing clips of kids being trained in hockey camps, etc.  Young(er) Lou Lamoriello has a brief appearance, and the announcing of Doc Emrick can be heard at one point 🙂  And once again the pronunciation of Russian last names and the mangling by North American announcers pains me.  Really, is it that hard to get the emphasis right?  Fet-EE-sov, not FET-i-sov.

All in all, I’d say that Red Army is worth seeing if you are a fan of ice hockey or if you are interested in mid-to-late 20th century politics and history in general.

From a purely personal perspective, I found the selection of the few recent Russian draftees odd:  Ilya Kovalchuk, first overall pick in 2001, but currently retired from the NHL and playing in the KHL; Alex Ovechkin, another first pick who is shown negatively in the documentary in terms of PR; and Nail Yakupov, another first pick who is really struggling in the NHL.  No mention of Pavel Datsyuk, who has ridiculous hands and speed, two Stanley Cup rings, and a boat-load of awards.  No mention of Evgeni Malkin, second overall pick behind Ovechkin, with a Stanley Cup ring to go with the Conn Smythe, Calder, Hart, Art Ross, and Ted Lindsay awards.  But then again, maybe the point being made was that perhaps Russian players would be better off playing in Russia, where they’d be more respected?  I don’t know.

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China Beach on DVD

I vaguely remember China Beach being on television when I was a kid but I didn’t watch it.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only episode I’ve ever seen is the series finale as a rebroadcast.

The first season is finally out on DVD; I’m not sure why it has taken so long, since so many other 90s shows have been released.  I’ve watched the first three episodes so far.

1.  A drama all about the women. Who talk about men sometimes but mostly about other things (so far).  It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.  (I wonder if this show would get made today.  Doubt it.)

2.  The volume of alcohol consumed by the main character is significant; again, would a female protagonist be permitted to drink that much and still be cast in a positive light today?  Doubt it.  I like that no one is drawn as all good or all bad, no matter how naive or cynical they are.

3.  The cast is good and the soundtrack is excellent.

4.  The film quality is…not great.

5.  Next three episodes, please?

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