Brooklyn Book Festival 2014

I had a good time at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival today.  Great turnout. Of course I bought books; some good deals from the DC Comics table and the Akashic Books table.

I managed to make it to the panel on “Segregation, Class, Race, and the NYC Public Schools,” with panelists Dana Goldstein (The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession), Pedro Noguera (Schooling for Resilience: Improving the Life Trajectories of African American and Latino Males) and David Banks (Soar: How Boys Learn, Succeed, and Develop Character), and moderated by Leah Brunski, a teacher of PS 29.  Really fascinating – and powerful.  It was a packed room in the Moot Courtroom of Brooklyn Law School (a.k.a. Alma Mater law school), hosting the event.

I liked how the panelists got down to the nitty-gritty of the issues. I think we keep focusing on so-called “accountability” without really taking management (i.e., supervisors, the politicians, etc.) into account; we forget that teachers are humans; we forget that New York City is de facto segregated on so many levels; and we really forget that this is a complicated situation with no singular answer (but some of us want a nice, quick answer or something to placate the masses). The panel reminded me that these issues in public school education in New York City are applicable to how we address so many other issues (public housing, social welfare and social justice; and in public service – where we public servants toil and get held accountable without really getting the full accounting).  I’ll get off my soapbox now.

I caught a little bit of the “Comedians as Authors,” where comedians Bog Saget and John Leguizamo were. That was a crowded bunch, standing room at the front of Borough Hall.

I unfortunately missed seeing James McBride, Jules Feiffer, and Jonathan Lethem. I also caught the tail ends of two panels:

–> “Face Your Fears or Else,” which had Lev Grossman (Magicians Trilogy: The Magician’s Land), Jeff VanderMeer (The Southern Reach Trilogy: Acceptance) and debut novelist Deji Olukotun (Nigerians in Space), moderated by Noreen Tomassi, Center for Fiction.  I admit that I’m one of those who know Grossman’s work in Time magazine; his Magician books are still on my to-read list.  The panel’s Q&A reminded me of how hard world-building is.

–> Welcome to Fantasy Island – Scott Westerfeld (Afterworlds), debut novelist C. J. Farley (Game World), and Cara Lynn Shultz (The Dark World), moderated by literary agent and author Seth Fishman, over at the Youth Pavilion – their Q&A was another reminder about the difficulty in writing fantasy.

In a way, I’m reminded if I’m really going to take another stab at writing a fantasy-type story, or if I’ll try something else in November… and that my reading list is expanded as usual.  Writing and reading. Reading and writing…

Well, great stuff at the Brooklyn Book Festival as usual!

(cross-posted over at

More TV Stuff 2014

I caught the first episode of Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” on Sunday night . I’m going to see if I’ll watch more. Initially, I was skeptical, since I know way more about the Roosevelts than the average American and I wondered what new element or way of storytelling would Burns bring to such a storied American dynasty. But, the first episode was fascinating in how it brought out how crazy Theodore Roosevelt was, with how he believed in concepts of masculinity and honor, and the idea of the warrior (to an extreme), and yet was a scientist and optimist, in overcoming his physical and mental issues (arguably, he was manic depressive, the way he had his emotional ups and downs, and how he used sheer force of will to climb out of personal tragedies and avoid facing internal darkness, and using might to fight for what he thought was right – although the wisdom of that… well, it was the late 19th/early 20th century, so…).

As a side note, I have a theory that you have to be a little crazy to run for president and pursue ambition while in office.

Burns appeared to be using the chronological frame to weave in Franklin and Eleanor, so that would be curious to watch as their further travails and triumphs unfold.

I almost forgot that Dancing With the Stars has its first night on Monday night.  So far, a lot of surprisingly talented dancers than expected. Of course, I barely know who half these stars are, and the ones I do know… well, I wonder how they’ll pull off the dancing! Plus: I’m pretty sure that Alfonso Ribiero will be this season’s ringer! (I think we’re all expecting the Carlton Banks dance from his “Fresh Prince” days; but he was once the kid who did the Michael Jackson dancing in Pepsi commercials back in the 1980′s – yes, I’m that old to remember that).

According to Entertainment Weekly, Amanda Pays will be on “The Flash” on CW – and she had played the love interest  in the old “The Flash” on CBS from the 1990 to 1991 season (ok, yes, I did watch that show for whatever episodes during its one season; my taste in tv was never something to brag about). It’s pretty cool, actually – Amanda Pays hasn’t been on tv in awhile (I actually vaguely remembered her X-Files appearance without checking the imdb page). They already got John Wesley Shipp (the ex-Flash), apparently playing the dad of the new Flash (who is Barry Allen; is anyone ever bringing poor Wally West back on tv? He hasn’t been in The Flash identity on tv since… say, the “Justice League” cartoon, I think? – no, wait, I forgot about “Young Justice,” which is such a mash up of Teen Titans and Young Justice so, yeah, “Young Justice” sounds appropriate to avoid the Teen Titan brand, and Wally was so normal in “Young Justice”)…

So, is CW totally bringing back the cast from the old “The Flash” from CBS? Kind of generous of CW so far! And at least Shipp was has a CW/WB lineage, by having been Dawson’s dad on “Dawson’s Creek.”

Strange how I’m so fascinated by news on “The Flash” when I’m so behind to watch its predecessor (and still ongoing) series, “Arrow.” But, CW and its predecessor WB has a track record with superhero shows (for better (i.e., “Smallville“) – and worse (I’m looking at you, “Birds of Prey” – which couldn’t last more than one season)).

I’m hoping that “Gotham” on FOX will be good – but then again, that may be because Ben McKenzie is back on broadcast network tv (this time, playing young Detective James Gordon; fun fact: he did the voice work for young Bruce Wayne/Batman for the animated version of “Batman: Year One” (which I still haven’t watched)).

I’m not even sure yet if I’ll give “Agents of SHIELD” another shot – but then again, if I’m going to support ABC’s diversity initiative, maybe I’ll give it another try.

I’ve been in the hunt for a new tv franchise and I think I’ve found it in the latest run of Doctor Who, at least to the extent that I’ve been watching the episodes with the 12th Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi. The 12th Doctor is Scottish, curmudgeonly, and – as usual – ridiculous as ever (the last part is one he has been for awhile, in his nuWho incarnations). I’m so glad that BBC America has been airing the episodes at a decent time slot so that I don’t have to resort to pirating or something, so for once I’m not egregiously behind Doctor Who (someday I’ll properly catch up on all the episodes of 10 and 11 that I inconsistently watched). I’m not going to say that the episodes are perfect (I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as the perfect tv show – don’t hate me for that), but they’ve been fun so far (to me, anyway). Time traveling tv has a way of irritating me, so I’ll give Doctor Who credit just for not irritating me too much (probably because Capaldi’s confident acting is keeping me distracted from plotholes, but then I’m not a nitpicky lunatic as some commentators are out there).

I’m also probably biased in favor of Capaldi since he’s one of those British actors who keeps popping up (there’s the hysterical clip from his notorious role as Malcolm Tucker, the profane Scottish political adviser (who will bluntly remind you in properly profane language that he is Scottish) who was in “The Thick of It” and later the movie spin-off, “In the Loop“).  I really do have to watch more of his oeuvre – he has played a doctor before, strangely enough playing with Hugh Laurie (the other doctor of the practice) in “Fortysomething”  (and that show had Benedict Cumberbatch, the future Sherlock Holmes, as Hugh Laurie’s son… it’s like a who’s who with British acting, isn’t it?).

And, years ago, I had seen Capaldi in “Chandler & Co.” – where he was the adviser to the Chandler sisters-in-law, a pair of rookie private investigators who might have been in over their heads, and Capaldi’s character had the strange romance thing with Chandler (the divorced sister-in-law, not the still-married one) – which had aired years ago on PBS’ Mystery. Fun stuff (well, to me it was, anyway). And, so, it’s kind of funny that BBC America has this feature that reflected on Capaldi’s roles – including the one from “Chandler & Co.”

(I also totally didn’t realize that he had been on “Neverwhere“).

This summer, I didn’t watch all that much of “The Musketeers” on BBC America, after the first episode. Granted, I was watching for Capaldi, who was playing the – at best – morally ambiguous and power hungry Cardinal Richelieu. Capaldi was fine, but the whole cast kept weirding me out by the way British actors were taking the Patrick Stewart’s mannerism of being French (a la Capt. Jean-Luc Picard)… oh, and D’Artagnan annoyed me in that first episode (he annoys me in his various incarnations anyway).

This summer, I was also way into the (only four episodes?!) latest run of “Endeavour” on PBS Masterpiece, the prequel series to the “Inspector Morse” and “Inspector Lewis” shows. “Endeavour” still felt a lot like “boy, everyone wants to do a period piece in the 1960′s,” with a Morse meets Mad Men type of crossover, but with tighter mysteries than has been seen in either the Inspector Lewis or Inspector Morse franchises in a long time (both series had some odd plotholes that a truck could drive through, and I can’t even be sure if they could be blamed on PBS’ weird editing). Anyway, young Detective Constable Morse (I still can’t get myself to call him by his first name because the old Morse show made his first name the big secret for years) appeared to be getting some respect from his superior officers and solving bigger cases – and even getting into a serious romantic relationship, and then… cliffhanger. How do you end a four-episode run with a cliffhanger?! (ok, granted, longtime viewers already know what happened to Morse by, say, the 1980s, but it’s really sad how his 1960′s kind of sucked, and his track record of not quite making it with the ladies began so long ago).

This fall PBS Masterpiece is bringing back Inspector Lewis (who was supposed to retire; guess he’s taking the same route Inspector Foyle did in not quite retiring). PBS Masterpiece has a really interesting fall 2014 schedule – or, at the least, I’m on the lookout for Inspector Lewis and the televised dramatization of PD James’ book “Death Comes to Pemberley.”

Hmm. I have a lot to catch up on with the tv stuff, as usual, and gearing up for the upcoming stuff. But,  yeah, tv is awesome. Or something like that.


Filling in the Gap

So, we had a hiatus for various reasons, between “A Weird Spring” and our entry of “The Revisit” for this year’s 72 Hour Shootout.  I figured I’d do a post on some pop culture stuff during that hiatus without hopefully being too overbearing about it.

We got into how LeVar Burton got on Kickstarter to take Reading Rainbow to the next generation (umm, next level).   LeVar really surpassed the expectations with the raising of the money, so the next question for him is how to use it well. I noted over on my tumblr that I didn’t begrudge LeVar for not making Reading Rainbow a not-for-profit, since I doubt that there’s that much of a profit out of it anyway (unless you’re at the level of JK Rowling, I’m not sure how much of a cash cow would there be in trying to get kids to read and giving them book recommendations). (oh, and I’m referring to him as LeVar since I grew up on “Reading Rainbow” and I’m a Trekkie, so…).

With the fall tv season of the 2014-2015 year coming, there are some shows to check out when they get aired. We triscribers are getting curious about how “Fresh Off The Boat” will be; I was thinking about how it’s kind of annoying that an Asian American sitcom comes to broadcast tv once every 20 years, like they’re the NY Rangers in a Stanley Cup final… (check out Randall Park’s commentary on how unfair it is to be the 2nd APA sitcom in 20 years, and hoping to break the bamboo ceiling already (h/t Angry Asian Man’s blog post).  As another sidenote: I am curious to see how ABC’s experiment in expanding diversity on broadcast network tv will work (hopefully!).

Oh, yeah, the NY Rangers – they made it to the finals, but didn’t win, losing it to the LA Kings. One of those “damn it, they have to get something for Henrik Lundqvist someday!” moments. It was very cool about how NYC got into it, with people coming out to Bryant Park to watch a game.

I really thought the USA got more into the World Cup because the World Cup was in our hemisphere, so we got to see a bunch of games and Team USA had a nice run. The spirit really was exciting. Otherwise, I still don’t understand soccer. (umm, “football,” to the rest of the world).

During this summer, I caught an outdoor showing of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” in Park Slope. Fun rock opera on Andrew Jackson’s rise to power. I liked it; more poignant than I thought (AJ’s wife’s misery – always sad; but that AJ’s ego was just right. Of course he thought he could save the country, putting aside how many people died or who stood in the way). The actor playing Jackson was better that I expected. There were some mic problems but not too bad. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the nat’l bank & tax issues, not that they were covered well at all (not musical worthy). The other old American legends got the “get your own musical” treatment (I don’t remember JQ Adams or Martin Van Buren as that bad in history). Almost made me want to go back to read up on that period again, with rock/pop music in the background.

Of course, the Andrew Jackson musical is totally making me exciting for the upcoming “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Public Theater in January/February 2015 (with Miranda as Alexander Hamilton!). This was previously The Hamilton Mixtape project and was quite a thing when Miranda started it with a presentation at the White House. (see here for my previous post on that!).

Ok, I know not everyone likes prosecutors, but I sure give US Attorney Preet Bharara a lot of credit for taking on a whole bunch of challenges. Good profile of him back in August  in the NY Times, by Ben Weiser and Ben Protess.

This was a very selective notation of stuff, but it was nice that the summer had no heat wave and was generally pleasant, weather-wise. Current events are weird as ever; we still live in interesting times.