Category Archives: Read or seen

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.

~~~

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 🙂

~~~

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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SBD: this and that

This:

I bought two books at The Strand this weekend, both non-fiction.

London Under by Peter Ackroyd.  I’ve never managed to finish Ackroyd’s history of London, but am creeping through his modernization of The Canterbury Tales.  Frankly, I blame Ben Aaronovitch’s Whispers Under Ground for my inability to put this back on the sale table.

A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich.

None of the fiction intrigued me.  My ennui remains.

Also, why did I buy paper books?  I’m going to be packing to move soon, and need to cull more books from my collection.

That:

Saw the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia’s Metafora on Saturday.  It was amazing (third party review here).  The music, the costumes, the choreography.  I especially appreciated the costumes of the women:  the shawls used almost matador-style; the hugely ruffled dresses and skirts of an early dance; the streamlined yet still fluttery crimson gowns of a later act; the peasant-style costumes of the second half.

Also saw “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.  It was my second choice — “Kinky Boots” was sold out.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Scarlet Johanssen in anything and been able to see the character rather than the actress.  The NYT theater critic wasn’t impressed by the rest of the cast, but I thought the actor playing Brick and Ciaran Hinds (Big Daddy) were pretty good.  Hinds’ southern accent has certainly improved since his stint as the Bill Clinton-ish president in Political Animals.

On my theater wishlist this spring:  Kinky Boots; MacBeth; Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; and Ann.  I’m tempted by the idea of “The Testament of Mary” because I admire Fiona Shaw but I’m not sure about the content.  Must check reviews.

The other:

The DABWAHA tournament is gearing up.  I’ve read nine of the nominees and killed several others after reading a sample; those that I have read were mostly NOT books I would rate highly.  The books I liked best were Tigerland, Irregulars, Whispers Under Ground, and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance — gay fiction and fantasy, which makes them less than likely to advance far in the tournament.

*shrug*

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Most popular posts

WordPress is kind enough to prepare a little report telling users about their traffic, stats, etc.  I try NOT to pay attention to that, but one stat — most popular posts — bemuses me.  You never can tell what people will be most interested in, can you?

1.  If you can’t afford an editor, you shouldn’t be publishing — 435 views.  When I first posted this, I was very cranky about the lack of editorial polishing I’d been seeing in epublished books, and the authorial shrugging about readers who quibbled about such immaterial things as spelling, punctuation, etc.  I didn’t expect it to get that much attention.

2.  Black Wade: The Wild Side of Love — 421 views.  This is a review of an erotic graphic novel that I did back in 2010, but it seems very popular.

3.  SBD: Bared to You by Sylvia Day — 167 views.  I didn’t care for this book and made it pretty clear in my post.  But for some reason, web searches on the hero’s penis size and anal sex in the book bring readers to my blog.  I’ve forgotten, was there anal in that book?

4.  Groupon’s Ad Fail — 160 views.

5.  Bear, Otter and the Kid review — 123 views.  Another negative review, which contrasts to the general glowing reviews about this book.  The review was written in 2011, so I’m guessing the traffic is a function of the comparison to the movie Shelter.

6.  BOATK/Shelter comparison — 107 views.  Yes, I thought they were extremely similar.

7.  Barcelona: a city I’m going to want to visit again — 87 views.  My travel summary of my February 2012 holiday.  Had a lovely trip.

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? –  Steppenwolf’s production is excellent:  the acting and the staging.  And yet I spent a fair amount of the play thinking about getting up and leaving.  George and Martha are so miserable toward one another and to Nick and Honey that it felt almost like watching reality television.  You know, where “contestants” constantly try to one-up each other and make each other uncomfortable in order to win points and remain on the show.  Line by line, there was a lot of black humor, and yet…  Not sorry to have seen the new production but also still no one of my favorite plays.

Dead Accounts — Theresa Rebeck’s new play.  Some of the stuff the lead actor was doing seemed playful and experimental, like he’s still figuring out the role, which makes sense since the show is still in previews.  The lead, Norbert Leo Butz, is incredible; the rest of the cast is good.  Katie Holmes, playing Lorna, the sister, is a little wooden and one-note, but I couldn’t tell if that was her acting or the way the character was written.  The play is a morality tale about the literal and metaphysical distance between New York City and so-called middle America, and the steps away from basic lessons of morality and humanity that we learn as children but eventually seem to forget as adults.  More Rebeck on Broadway, please?

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