Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Morning Coffee (9/30/14)

Here are a few thoughts on the Outlander midseason finale.

Whoa: Publisher Ellora's Cave has sued blog Dear Author over this post.

Aw, remember the Yahoo! directory? It's finally getting shut down.

The Guardian has redesigned their liveblogs and it's fine I guess but I hate change.

Literary Biography of Jonathan Franzen to Appear Next Year, because of course. "Mr. Franzen doesn’t appear to have led an especially noteworthy life," but remember: When a white man writes about his "ultrasensitive childhood" and "troubled marriage," it's deep.

Nifty: When the Great War became World War I, in one chart

Firefighters Save Family of Hamsters With Tiny Oxygen Masks

I did embarrassingly badly on this Queens of England quiz.

Dirtbag Zeus

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Morning Coffee (9/25/14)

My new show reviews continue: NCIS: New Orleans

And here are a few thoughts on the Sleepy Hollow premiere.

I'm very proud of the work my dad has done here: A Refuge and a Resource for Veterans

Here's yet another layer of the Emma Watson photo countdown hoax. None of this actually makes it better.

Nigella Lawson's next cookbook has a chapter called "Bowlfood" so therefore I AM IN.

How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics

I like Rebecca WAY more than I like Gone Girl but this was interesting anyway: The Original Gone Girl: On Daphne du Maurier and Her Rebecca

Whoa: Napoléon and Joséphine’s marriage contract sold at auction

Let's Talk About the Books You've Pretended to Read (Confession: I call Jane Austen my favorite author but I haven't read Northanger Abbey and I don't think I've ever finished Mansfield Park.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Haven Recap at TheTelevixen: Speak No Evil

Here's my recap of last night's episode of Haven, "Speak No Evil." This episode had some amazing stuff with Duke and Nathan. But I still want Audrey back.

Morning Coffee (9/19/14)

Happy Friday!

(Non-happy interlude - here's my review of new show The Mysteries of Laura. It's a terrible show.)

Scotland voted no, so the scotch industry is happy.

For some reason I'd never taken the weekly Slate news quiz before today, but it's fun! I recommend it!

Speaking of Slate, the CultureFest is doing a live show in Boston.

Connie Britton and Kirsten Gillibrand were roommates during a study abroad program and everything is amazing.

Heeeee: 18 New New York Times Bestseller Lists That Will Change The Way You Think About Bestseller Lists

Oh my God: Thin Mints & Samoas Are Now Drinkable

Dirtbag Teddy Roosevelt

Heh: Ranking the Cast of 'This Is Where I Leave You' by Emmys, Jewishness, and Every Other Important Metric

I think some of these Gilmore Girls facts are pretty well known, but it's still a fun list.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The National Book Award Project 2014

The National Book Award Longlists came out this week, and I was slightly dismayed to realize I've only read one book on them so far. Now, I know, I know - no award is really a measure of what books are best or necessary to read, and the nominations are not unproblematic. Like everyone else, I'm disappointed by how overwhelming male the nonfiction list is, and I'm sure there are myriad other diversity issues I will notice as I look at the lists in greater detail.

But, let's face it, I've never met a list I didn't want to tackle. Reading from this list would make me branch out and read some things I might otherwise not pick up, and it's always fun to have Opinions on The Matters of the Day. And really? It's back to school time and I miss homework. So let's see how many I can read! The finalists will be announced on October 15th, so I'll narrow my focus then, and the winners on November 19th.

I'm going to try to get as many of these as possible from the library, so this will also be an interesting exercise in seeing what a small (?) city's public library has, and whether they order more as we go along. I'll check in each Friday and let you know what has come in at the library, what I've read, etc.

So here's the list, and starting status:

  • Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman - Currently available at library.
  • Molly AntopolThe UnAmericans - Currently available at library.
  • John DarnielleWolf in White Van - Yes, that John Darnielle. Not available at library.
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See - Added myself to the library waitlist. I'm #13.
  • Phil KlayRedeployment - At the library but checked out. I'm #1 on the waitlist.
  • Emily St. John MandelStation Eleven - At the library but checked out. I'm first on the waitlist.
  • Elizabeth McCracken, Thunderstruck & Other Stories - At the library but checked out. I'm first on the waitlist.
  • Richard PowersOrfeo - Currently available at library.
  • Marilynne RobinsonLila - This is on order at the library, but it's also the third of a trilogy. So I need to start with Gilead.
  • Jane SmileySome Luck - This isn't out yet, but the library has it on order. I'm third on the waitlist.
  • Roz ChastCan’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? - At the library but checked out. I'm #3 on the waitlist.
  • John DemosThe Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic - Currently available at library.
  • Anand GopalNo Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes - At the library but checked out. I'm first on the waitlist.
  • Nigel HamiltonThe Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941 - 1942 - At the library but checked out. I'm second on the waitlist.
  • Walter IsaacsonThe Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution - This isn't out yet, but the library has it on order. I'm first on the waitlist.
  • John LahrTennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh - In processing at the library. And this is the point at which I notice it's 765 pages and decide to stop putting things on hold until I get through a few of the ones already available, so I don't have ALL THE BOOKS AT ONCE.
  • Evan OsnosAge of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China - Currently available at library.
  • Ronald C. RosbottomWhen Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 - Not available at library.
  • Matthew StewartNature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic - Not available at library.
  • Edward O. WilsonThe Meaning of Human Existence - This isn't out yet, and the library does not have it on order.
  • Linda BierdsRoget's Illusion - Not available at library.
  • Brian BlanchfieldA Several World - Not available at library.
  • Louise GlückFaithful and Virtuous Night - Currently available at library.
  • Edward Hirsch, Gabriel: A Poem - Not available at library.
  • Fanny HoweSecond Childhood - Not available at library.
  • Maureen N. McLaneThis Blue - Not available at library.
  • Fred MotenThe Feel Trio - Not available at library.
  • Claudia RankineCitizen: An American Lyric - This isn't out yet, and the library does not have it on order.
  • Spencer Reece, The Road to Emmaus - Not available at library.
  • Mark StrandCollected Poems - This isn't out yet, and the library does not have it on order.
Young People's Literature:
  • Laurie Halse AndersonThe Impossible Knife of Memory - Hey, I've read this! It was great. (The library does have it, for the record.)
  • Gail GilesGirls Like Us - Currently available at library.
  • Carl HiaasenSkink—No Surrender - Not available at library, and this is apparently number SEVEN in a series, so . . . we'll see.
  • Kate MilfordGreenglass House - I coincidentally took this out from the library last night, because people keep raving about it.
  • Eliot SchreferThreatened - At the library but checked out.
  • Steve SheinkinThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights - In processing at the library.
  • Andrew Smith100 Sideways Miles - Currently available at library.
  • John Corey WhaleyNoggin - At the library but checked out.
  • Deborah WilesRevolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two - The library has book one, but book two only in audiobook so far.
  • Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming - On order at the library. I happened to put this on hold yesterday and am first on the waitlist.
Summary: The library has or has ordered 9/10 fiction, 7/10 nonfiction, 1/10 poetry, and 8/10 young people's literature. Good showing for everything but poetry! I've currently read one, have one out from the library, and am on the waitlists for nine. Next time I go to the library I'll pick up a few of the ones that are on the shelf.

Morning Coffee (9/18/14)

Scotland is voting! Here's the Guardian's liveblog. (The Guardian has the BEST liveblogs.)

Here's the National Book Award fiction longlist.

Whoa: 1976 Arizona cold case solved after man drives cross-country to confess

And in even colder cases: King Richard III killed by blows to skull

I described this as "COMPLETELY FASCINATING" to two separate people yesterday, which I suppose tells you a lot about what I do for fun: How The FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast Model Works

Unexpected headline of the day: Head of Russian Orthodox church given fighter jet by factory workers

This is all very true: On Being Somebody

"The Internet isn’t just a diversion from real life—the Internet is real life, and the people saying otherwise are simply exploiting our insecurities for clicks, views, attention, and profit."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TV Recommendation: Faking It

Faking It returns to MTV for season two next Tuesday, September 23rd, and if you missed this one when it debuted earlier this year, I'd urge you to give it a try. I know a lot of people were put off by the premise - two high school best friends pretend to be a lesbian couple to gain attention and popularity. There are obviously a million ways in which such a premise could result in a terrible, offensive show, not least because non-fictional gay high school students who come out often face negative social consequences (and worse things), not positive. I was highly skeptical going in, but one of the lead actresses is from the same small town as I am and knows my brother, so I wanted to give it a try for her sake. And I'm very glad I did. I'm absolutely not claiming the show handles everything perfectly, but (like most shows) it's much more complex than the one-line premise might imply, and I was impressed by how sensitively it handled a number of potentially fraught themes, including but not limited to its characters' sexuality. It deals with issues of friendship and love and family, and has some interesting things to say about adolescents' individuation and the role played by both internal and external expectations. And it's also just good entertainment - it's both funny and genuinely touching, with a great cast that got me invested in the characters almost immediately, despite my initial doubts.

The first season only had eight half-hour episodes, so you can catch up in barely any time. You can find them on MTV.com or stream them from Amazon Prime. (They might also be on demand, depending on your cable provider.) If you do give it a try, let me know what you think!

Morning Coffee (9/17/14)

Red Band Society premieres tonight on Fox. I really liked it.

Oh yay, NASA is resuming manned space flights.

Update on the Rotherham story: Police Chief Quits Over Child Sexual Abuse Scandal in English Town

Interesting: In N.H., Marilinda Garcia Offers Test for New-Look GOP

Veronica Mars fans, the episode of online meta-spinoff Play It Again, Dick is now available. (I couldn't get it to play on Chrome and had to use IE.)

5 Things I Learned as the Internet's Most Hated Person

I love that the Queen owns something called The Tutti Frutti Bouquet Brooch.

This article about pumpkin spice marketing is interesting, but I feel like it concentrates too much on the smell and taste and pumpkin pie connection and ignores what I think is probably the most genius part of this trend, which is getting people to associate the "pumpkin spice" flavor - primarily cinnamon and nutmeg - with the visual symbols of Halloween jack-o'-lanterns and Thanksgiving/fall/harvest pumpkins/gourds, and getting to people's nostalgia and seasonal/holiday feelings that way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Morning Coffee (9/16/14)

If you are one of the people upset by Apple giving you a U2 album, here's how to get rid of it.

The Young People's Literature Longlist for the National Book Award is out!

Sigh: Urban Outfitters Sells "Vintage" Blood-Spattered Kent State Sweatshirt

Hmm, is Bernie Sanders going to run? That might make things interesting. (I am an undecided Democratic primary voter in New Hampshire! I'm about to become very popular.)

I had no idea about this dispute over Fulton Sheen's remains. Wow.

Awesome: The complete works of Shakespeare are being translated into Mandarin for the first time.

I have no idea whether any of this story about Princess Charlene is true, but it's very dishy. And made me think "I'm so glad Blair Waldorf got out when she did."

Would you like to read about llama racing? I thought you might.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Web Series Recommendation: Classic Alice

I'm a late convert to web series, mostly because a) I am old and the world of YouTube confuses me and b) I've found it weirdly hard to remember to incorporate them into my media consumption routine. But! I've found a few I really like, and thought I'd start sharing, in case you too wish to enter the world of web series.

Classic Alice is an easy show to get started with because it's fairly early in its run, so you can catch up quickly without too much of a time investment. (Though trust me, it's worth the time.) The premise: Alice is a college student/bookworm who gets a bad grade on a paper because the professor doesn't think she's connecting with what she's reading. The grade? "He gave me a B-. I flunked. I failed." And that's the moment I knew I'd love Alice, because that kind of reaction is exactly me. Anyway. To deal with this and show that she can indeed connect to literature on an emotional level, she and her film student friend Andrew decide to make a documentary series in which she lives her life according to various works of literature, starting with Crime and Punishment. When I describe it that way, I worry it sounds a little boring, but trust me, it's not. The writing is a great mix of hilarious and earnest, and I became invested in Alice and Andrew (and Alice-and-Andrew) almost immediately. To watch all the videos in the proper order, just follow this playlist. And if you'd like to get more immersed in the world, the characters are on Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media as well, and you can read summaries of all that here. I also recommend this great interview with the creator and cast.

If you try Classic Alice, let me know what you think!

Morning Coffee (9/15/14)

Happy Monday? I guess?

Here's my TV news column for the week, to catch you up on anything you missed.

Two Senators Go ‘Lord Of The Flies’ On Deserted Island For Discovery Reality Series. No. NO. "Yes, we asked: The senators will be clothed." I feel like if you are in a situation in which you need to ask whether U.S. senators will be naked on television, something has already gone terribly awry.

Aww. Bob Crewe has died.

An 11-year-old in China found a 3,000-year-old sword. Presumably this is the beginning of some sort of quest, so I wish him luck.

Oooh: Italian police foil counterfeit Tuscan red wine scam in biggest food fraud

Someone is finally trying to cast Tyler Hoechlin in a baseball movie. Thank goodness.

This article about the cereal business is more interesting than it perhaps sounds.

Cinema's enduring love affair with the sleeper train

Friday, September 12, 2014

Haven Recap at TheTelevixen: See No Evil

Haven's fifth season started last night, and I'm recapping over at The Televixen, so I'll try to remember to link you over each time a recap goes up. Here's the premiere, "See No Evil."

Morning Coffee (9/12/14)

Happy Friday!

If you need to smile, please watch the DuckTales intro recreated with real ducks.

Would you like Tom Mison to read you "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" for free? I thought you might.

More from Rolling Stone: 22 Things You Learn Hanging Out With Taylor Swift. (I LOVE HER. That's not a thing you learn, just an observation.)

This is a lovely profile of Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton. I now want to be her when I grow up.

Let's ogle the brooch the Queen has worn to the Braemar Gathering for fourteen years straight. Because they gave it to her. She's considerate like that.

Hilarious, especially for Pride and Prejudice fans: On Ideals of Feminine Accomplishment

Ooh: Smithsonian to x-ray and analyse 1796 George Washington portrait

Do you pine after the food in Harry Potter, but you don't eat meat? Dumbledore's Vegan Army is here for you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Morning Coffee (9/10/14)

Oh hey, the Man Booker shortlist! I should get reading.

The season of CBS Sunday night football delays is almost upon us! They're tweaking their alert system. Grumble grumble.

"In one sense, Tuesday's release of the complete mono catalog of the Beatles on vinyl LPs is the most technologically ambitious attempt yet to take what is arguably the most significant body of recorded music in the pop era and do... absolutely nothing."

Iceland's 'Pompeii' emerging from the ash

I just . . . no. I don't get this whole "proposals must be a complete surprise!!!" thing. I mean, what do I know, but I'd think ideally marriage should be a decision agreed upon by two equals rather than a shocking gift bestowed by a man.

The Allure of Imagined Meals

Can You Guess These TV Shows By Their Emojis? (I am proud/embarrassed to say that yes, I guessed them all correctly.)

Rupert Giles, MLS

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Morning Coffee (9/9/14)

Happy primary day, New Hampshire! (And elsewhere.) Heads up, Nashua, some polling locations have changed.

I was skeptical of the Jack the Ripper "news" in the first place and am now doubly so, as I trust Maureen Johnson in all things. But especially this. (No, seriously, she knows what she's talking about.)

Cosmo is endorsing candidates for the first time this year. They've really been doing a lot of good stuff recently.

Rolling Stone cover story: The Reinvention of Taylor Swift (I wholeheartedly and unironically love her and I don't even care.)

Elsewhere in celebrity profiles that make their subjects seem altogether delightful and endearing: The Year's Most Unexpected Action Hero, a.k.a. Dylan O'Brien

Awwwww, awesome: Iowa couple marries after 72 years together

My friend Christine has reviewed The White Queen and provided a handy Wars of the Roses reading list.

The 62 most astounding, inspiring, and alarming takeaways from Monica Seles’s new YA romance series totally made me want to read the books.

Eee! LEGO Libraries and Bookstores

Friday, September 5, 2014

Morning Coffee (9/5/14)

HAPPY FRIDAY. Finally. I just realized that I have enough items bookmarked to make this entire list about current and former British royalty, but I suppose I'll be nice and mix it up a bit and save some of those for next week sometime.

But really, you need this headline: Prince George adopts a lobster "We do not know if the crustacean has been named, nor if the adoption was a gift from The Duke to The Prince."

And this one: Princess Anne to visit island where Prince Philip is worshipped as a god

Clarence House (the official presence of the Prince of Wales and his family; it's like saying "the White House" and not meaning the actual building) is Instagramming about Daleks, so I think we can all go home now.

One more: Someone bought a slice of Charles and Di's wedding cake for £828. Yum? I am bringing this up mainly because one of the articles I read about this mentioned a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine eats a piece of Wallis and Edward's wedding cake and I CANNOT BELIEVE NO ONE EVER TOLD ME ABOUT THIS. Why isn't Seinfeld streaming? I think I'd like it a lot better now than I did when it was on. (I know: because money. Still.)

No, wait, one more: BBC America is giving us a special on Harry at 30, because they love us.

OKAY MOVING ON: This is a little old, but Will Shortz's young female assistant is my new hero.

Awesome: Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British army, to feature on £5 coin

The 6 Reactions Book-Lovers Have to People Who Don't Read

This is good customer service. (Note: kitten!)

Science Headlines I Would Like To See More Of

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In Which I Forget the Existence of a Movie & Confusion Ensues

This morning, I was listening to the new Maroon 5 album, V, and somehow had entirely forgotten that Begin Again was as thing, and therefore went through this really confusing thought process, as seen in IMs to my friend Holly:

Me: There also seems to be an Adam Levine solo song as a bonus track.
Me: Which amuses me, because, like, WHO ON EARTH could even name the other Maroon 4 anyway?*
Me: This solo song involves lambs?
Me: Wait are they HUNTING lambs?
Me: There are also lions kissing deer.
Me: ...and Adam Levine seems to think that HE HIMSELF is a lamb? As opposed to a hunter? REALLY?
*Googles for lyrics*
Me: Wait, is this a KEIRA KNIGHTLEY COVER?
*light begins to dawn*
Me: AHA.

The album was fine, by the way. Nothing groundbreaking, but perfectly enjoyable for those of us who perfectly enjoy listening to Adam Levine's voice. And now I want to see Begin Again, so . . . well played.

* Holly in fact named one of them. I'm a terrible fan.

Morning Coffee (9/4/14)

DNA Evidence Clears Two Men in 1983 Murder

Progress: Gay Groups to March in St. Patrick’s Day Parade as a Ban Falls

Not progress: Parisian suburb accused of gender stereotyping over school satchels

Oh, Rowland.

“I Went to the Woods So I Could Steal Candy From Children”: The Maine Hermit Is A Terrible Hero To Have

Maxine Peake: More actresses should play male roles

Whoa: Cold case murder solved by Lego. (Sort of.) (The Daily Mail, I know, as the Fug Girls would say.)

Against the “digital detox” metaphor

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What I Read: August 2014

Trying something new . . . at the beginning of each month I'll post a list of books I finished the preceding month, with a few thoughts on each. (They're in the order in which I finished them.)

Judgment in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death #11): I love this series of sci-fi mysteries starring one of my favorite fictional couples. This was a strong entry in the series; I read it while traveling (so mostly on planes) and it was perfect for that - interesting enough to keep my attention without requiring too much brainpower.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: I haven't read Holly's earlier faerie books yet - I'll get there! - but goodness, I loved this one. It has interesting magic systems, diverse characters, a well-drawn setting, great friendship and sibling stuff in addition to romance, and two elements that almost always win my undying love: gender-flipped tropes and the ability to make me both laugh (repeatedly) and cry (at the end, in a good way).

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson: I've mostly got dystopian fatigue at this point, but this one caught my attention with its non-U.S. setting, fascinating political and religious systems, and interesting take on technology. The writing was lovely, and I really enjoyed this even though I had a little trouble connecting with most of the characters.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Anna/Lola/Isla #3): I love love loved this one SO much. Even more than the first two! Somehow! I think my favorite thing about Steph's romances is how they're so joyful without ever seeming saccharine or fake - plenty of bad stuff and complicated stuff and just real life stuff happens, and that makes the happy endings even more satisfying.

Paper Towns by John Green: I enjoy John's writing, but this one took a while for me to get into - the characters and plot didn't really hook me until about halfway through. I was much more into it by the end, though.

Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet (Max Tudor #3): I continue to love Max Tudor and the village setting and supporting characters, but the actual mystery in this book didn't grab me QUITE as much as the ones in the other books in the series. But it was still a great cozy, comforting read. (Except for the very end, which made me VERY CONCERNED ABOUT MAX'S PERSONAL LIFE and very eager for the next book!)

Salvage by Alexandra Duncan: Ava is a teen girl living in a traditional, patriarchal society on a deep space merchant ship who breaks the rules, flees from her community, and winds up back on an earth that is both wildly different from our own and completely recognizable. The multiple societies Duncan creates (both in space and on earth) are completely fascinating, especially in regards to gender roles and the interplay of science and religion, and she made me deeply care about her characters.

To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace: This was full of fascinating information, but the format made it a very slow read for me. The whole book is presented in little snippets, with headings every few paragraph and lots of insets, etc., and I found it impossible to really get any momentum.

(Disclaimers: I know Holly, Alaya, Steph, and John, and chat with Alexandra on Twitter occasionally. I freelance for Steph and Alexandra's agent, who sent me an ARC of Salvage. I got Holly's ARC at LeakyCon; the rest of the books I either purchased or got from the library.)

Morning Coffee (9/2/14)

We've made it to September! Yay!

Here are the new Amazon pilots. I'll write up some quick opinions of them later in the week, if you're interested.

Interesting issues here: Big brother is watching your favorite college athletes

Hee. Perfect. Angelina and Brad Finally Wed. Will Billy Bob Thornton Ever Find Happiness?

I tend to care more about authorial intent than I probably should these days, but Todd VanDerWerff's take is worth a read.

The Hypocrisy of Gay Shower Panic

Quite the story: Burmese beauty queen 'vanishes with tiara' from pageant

At long last, Hugh Grant is doing another rom-com.

These Are the Brave and Fluffy Cats Who Served in World War I