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Super Bowl Sunday!

(The following was written as I was more or less watching the game, posted belated due to some server connection problems…).

Get ready for some football!

The commercials so far haven’t been too awful. (and they can be).  Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy was inspirational as ever in a commercial (I believe it was for a car; I’ll check again later), with the commercial depicting her snowboarding, dancing, and modeling.

The Minions (from the “Despicable Me” movies) are getting their own movie this summer (called – what else? – “Minions”). The cute commercial was making fun of both the Minions and the ridiculous antics of fans in the stadiums.

1st quarter ends with no points.  Someone ought to remind Seattle that you need some points on the board. But, at least their defense is holding up.  (umm, speaking as a casual fan, that is).

Such a cute Budweiser commercial, with the Clydesdales’ missing their lost puppy and then saving the puppy from a lone wolf. Aww!

It doesn’t make me want to drink beer, but – puppy!  Clydesdales!  Aww!

The commercial for the upcoming Terminator movie did not motivate me to want to watch the upcoming Terminator movie.  Maybe it had to do with the “Let’s see if we can bring Arnold Schwarzenegger back again!” part.  It didn’t interest me at all.

Coca Cola tried to make us stop bullying and being insanely partisan, as well as tried to encourage us to drink Coke. I liked that commercial, even if it was a little odd.

The “1st Draft Ever” commercial, where God was announcing what country got what species was hilarious for reminding me why we all like avocados. Also: too bad Mexico did not draft the polar bear (who even wore a sombrero to get drafted for a warm country).

Wow. Half-time ended on a tie (awesomely competitive); half-time show was pretty darn good (Katy Perry! Lenny Kravitz! Missy Elliott!); and Seahawks are doing well as the 3rd quarter began. Commercials – not awful.

Odd, snotty Budweiser commercial about how they’re a popular brand of beer because they’re made for drinking, not for tasting like some namby-pamby pumpkin microbrew ale. I thought people accepted Budweiser because it’s bland enough to be handled by everyone. That it’s not a microbrew doesn’t make it better or worse, or make the microbrews terrible. Can’t we all just get along? (Notably, I don’t drink beers anyway, and if I do drink, I end up drinking cider because I’m boring. And, I think that I’ve tried a lager. Evidently, I’m not a Bud drinker). That also made me miss the old Bud Bowl ads. They were fun, not snotty.

New England Patriots are not giving up in the 4th quarter.

OMG. New England takes the lead, with two minutes left.

Come to think of it, why hasn’t Lenny Kravitz been given a half-time show? Hmm!

Can’t believe this. Seattle makes some dumb mistakes; interception?! The frustration is believable and palpable. Don’t fight now! Ugh.

Then, Seattle loses. So close. I guess I’d say congrats to New England, but man…

Ugh. Quite a game, even if it was not the way (or the team) that I wanted. So weird and crazy. Maybe it’s me – why is it that the teams I root for lose? Eh. At least the commercials were a nice distraction, except when they were morbid. But, even the morbid ones were not badly done.  They just did not fit in a Super Bowl context.  Feel free to check out the pretty comprehensive commercial overview on Slate.

The pre-pre game coverage was something I generally ignored (seven hours of what…?). But, I did catch some Bob Costas bantering with Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinsky, bringing back some flashbacks of Costas’ Sochi Olympics 2014 and how Weir and Lipinsky were so popular with their mix of professional and campy analysis of figure skaing. Oh, wait, this was football.   Never mind.

On to the next sports/pop culture event!

A Review of Reading/Literary Highlights of 2014

An extra long post!  As a follow up to the previous yearsposts on analysis of the year of highlights: in 2014, I had a total of 60 books read, this was probably the least I’ve read since I started counting what I read since 2009 (and I started the count late that year, so it’s not like I can say whether 60 is least at all for me).

A breakdown of the reading list of 2014: 5 literary fiction; 4 children’s lit; 18 comics/graphic novels; 4 memoirs (5 counting Congressman John Lewis’ March); 3 on writing; 3 on law (technically); 8 mystery/thriller; 2 philosophy; 2 spiritual (technically); 1 on living tips (technically); 2 poetry; 10 collection/anthology (not counting the comics/graphic novels); 4 comedy/satire books 39 fiction and 19 non-fiction (not counting the 2 poetry).  21 ebooks.  2 or 3 were rereads.  5 were books for book club.  On, and a list of incomplete reads (for any number of reasons, and I’m hardly going to list the incomplete books, since I gave up trying to keep track of that).

Thanks to the Brooklyn and New York Public Libraries for the majority of the books read (as usual).

I was surprised by how much comics/graphic novels ended up on the list, most of which I read simply because they were available from the library and I was curious to see what they were and if they were any good (mixed reaction, really).   I really enjoyed Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, a great read, which went along with my reading of writing books, which lead to this year’s NaNoWriMo project of writing a sort-of superhero story.

I really binged on ebooks during the middle of the year, to the point that it was probably unsurprising that I haven’t exactly gotten back to my Nook by the end of the year (well, NaNoWriMo was, as usual, a big disruption to my usual reading).

It turned out that 2014 was not the year in which I finally read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, or Umberto Eco’s In the Name of the Rose, as much as I was hoping to do last January.  I also didn’t get to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, even though it somehow was the top of a pile at one point.  And, unfortunately, Linda Greenhouse’s Becoming Justice Blackman was unfinished in 2014, but hopefully will be finished in 2015 (I can’t be that terrible).

Another Barnes & Noble close occurred in 2014, in the form of the closing of the old flagship store.  There was also the closing of Rizzoli.

I really enjoyed the appearance of Congressman John Lewis at Strand, promoting the graphic novel, March, Book 1, which he co-wrote with Andrew Aydin, one of his aides.  Hopefully, Book 2 will come out soon.  With the movie Selma out, there are a lot of ways to explore and re-examine the Civil Rights Movement, and the timing could not be better.

I got sad (and continue to be sad) about not keeping up with the technology of e-reading, as Barnes & Noble discontinued the Simple Touch.  I also increased buying books from Strand.

2014 was the year that I finally read a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold.  Such a fascinating book.  (unfortunately, 2014 was also the year during which Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away).

2014 was also the year of the passing of Maya Angelou.  There was also the passing of Eric Hill, the author and illustrator of the Spot the Dog series; author PD James; the passing of Norman Bridwell, the author and illustrator of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series; and the passing of many others that I gave some pause outside of this blog (including, but not limited to, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, and others).

I checked out the New York Public Library’s exhibits on The Beatles and on Sesame Street (see here and here on the promotions of the Sesame Street exhibit).

LeVar Burton’s Kickstarter project to get Reading Rainbow as a different kind of experiment for the 21st Century brought up a lot of thoughts.

The recent question of North Korea and hacking concerns reminded me of my reading Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son – a lot of confusion, fear, and absurdity (real or fiction?  Who knows anymore?).

I also read Oscar Hijuelos’ Empress of the Splendid Season; fascinating reading.  And other authors who I’m so glad to have finally read: Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven was a rich and moving read, and turned out to have been a balance to reading Larry Watson’s Montana 1948, a book on the questions of balancing law and morality in the immediate post-World War II Montana, from the late 20th century outlook and dry but poignant writing.

I attended the Brooklyn Book Festival (and did not resist getting books). I did post some photos from the Festival.

I read a bunch of fascinating memoirs in 2014.  I highly recommend Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, The Sky is Not the Limit, to inspire and encourage minorities and women in pursuit of fields that they would not have pursued.  Vaclav Havel’s To the Castle and Back was an insightful read, as I notedThe Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In by Paisley Rekdal and The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese American From Number Two Son to Rock n’ Roll by Ben Fong-Torres were really fascinating for presenting different perspectives on Asian-American experiences.

Re-reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was a good time.

I’m glad to have attended what I could of the Moby Dick reading marathon and the reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe in November and December 2014.

I continued reading my favorites, of Batman and Nero Wolfe.  Batman: The Court of Owls was a strange read (if only because DC Comics’ New 52 made things feel a little off) and Batman: L’il Gotham was great fun (Dustin Nguyen’s playing with the Batman characters in the pre-DC Comics New 52 world).

Author Robert Goldsborough revisited the world of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, by covering how they met in Archie Meets Nero Wolfe – a fun but weird read, since Archie’s 1st person narration didn’t quite have a period feel of the 1930’s and he seemed older than he was (which, with Archie never aging beyond the age of 30, tends to happen, I think, even when Rex Stout wrote the series).  Rex Stout’s Over My Dead Body was a strange but funny read – the habits of Wolfe and Archie are thrown off the rails by the appearance of Wolfe’s long-lost (adopted) daughter, an adult whose secrets weren’t fully fleshed out (which also tends to happens with Stout’s works).

I closed out the year reading former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ Horoscopes for the Dead.  It was funny, poignant, and sometimes even profound.  Full of images and sound, words and feelings; Collins is one of my favorites, and I’m not much of a poetry reader. I was glad to have ended 2014 with this book.  On with reading in 2015!

(cross-posted at

Some TV Highlights of 2014

Extra long post! My personal TV Highlights of 2014, which isn’t really a best/worst list (or maybe it should be) and, as noted last year, it doesn’t help that I’ve really cut back on tv viewing (shocking, I know), I don’t have Showtime, HBO, or even Cinemax (so, no “Homeland,” “Game of Thrones,” “Veep,” “True Detective,” or “The Knick”), and I have not pursued the streaming trend (so, still no “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” or “Alpha House,” which I’d still really like to check out, since it’s the Garry Trudeau project inspired by the trivia that a bunch of real US Senators and Congressmen were roommates). And I’m not still on the Downton Abbey bandwagon (still shocking), and I didn’t get to try FX’s “Fargo” either (I kind of wanted to do so, just to see Martin Freeman in a non-British role).

In no particular order:

1. “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS) – series finale. A bittersweet farewell. Guess the journey was far more fun than the outcome (speaking as someone who got off the bandwagon a long time ago, only because of lack of time and my tendency to step away from a show when it reaches mass popularity).

2. “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” (NBC) – nice job, Jimmy! I can forgive Jay Leno (some might say he doesn’t need forgiveness, but the way things did not work out with Conan O’Brien was still surreal to me), but Jimmy Fallon and the Roots make the show fun again for me to watch once in awhile, rather than to avoid.

3. Winter Olympics 2014 (NBC). Probably the ultimate strange reality show (except that there were some far worse stuff, so oh well). Between the pre-Olympic games controversies (not all of which were on display on tv, rather than the print media and Internet), the error with the snowflake during the Opening Ceremonies, Bob Costas’ terrible infection of the eyes, and of course the thrills of victory and agonies of defeat (apologies to Jim McKay and ABC’s old Wide World of Sports for borrowing the phrase) – still amazing tv (and notwithstanding time zones and tape delays). Oh, and international political intrigue and violence (yeah, can’t really forget that).

4. “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC). Hmm, I will hand it to ABC for making things strangely fun (in that “Well, I get some eye candy and entertainment; whatever” way). 2014 was very watchable for Dancing With the Stars with ringers such as Charlie White and Meryl Davis (the Olympic ice dancing champions) and at the end of this year, Alfonso Ribeiro (never give up the Carlton!). Some people were the kind who I didn’t think of as “stars” (not when the pro dancer is more famous than the “star”). Oh, and so inspiring to see Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy go as far as she did. Derek Hough, the pro dancer, was ridiculously talented in choreography and dancing, I have to say, and Val Chmerkovskiy, the third place pro dancer this most recent fall season – so hot.

5. “Masterpiece Theatre” (PBS) – no, I’m still not on the “Downton Abbey” bandwagon (gasp!). 2014 had a lot of great stuff – the return of “Sherlock” (from BBC, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson); the return of Detective Constable Morse in “Endeavour” (complete with an odd cliffhanger); “Inspector Lewis” (with Lewis’ partner Hathaway practically becoming the 21st century Morse, in the brooding and honorable way); the final run of actor David Suchet as Hercule Poirot (with the final episode on streaming online tv, which pissed me off because I wasn’t paying for that, as cheap as I am, and I didn’t get to see it because PBS didn’t air it); and “Death Comes to Pemberley” (actor Matthew Rhys got pretty intense as Darcy and the two-parter was mostly entertaining).

6. Comic adaptations to tv – I ultimately have mixed feelings on “Gotham” (FOX) (other than Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney, I’m not sure what to make of the women on this show, and I’m behind on episodes as it is). “The Flash” (CW) had the most fun series premiere, I have to say. I didn’t catch “Constantine” (NBC). “Arrow” (CW) looks as strong as ever (although I’m not much of a viewer and I’m not even on the Arrow bandwagon).

7. Following up on “Sherlock” above, I will say that I’m still a viewer of “Elementary” (CBS) (Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson). I wish that show does a better job being an ensemble show (I like the moments of Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill), and for God’s sake, CBS, you have Aidan Quinn as Captain Gregson!). Still: it’s a watchable show.

8. “Gracepoint” (FOX). I will credit FOX for trying to redo BBC America’s “Broadchurch” (back in the UK, “Broadchurch” was from ITV). It was weird to see actor David Tennant as Detective Emmett Carver (who seemed to still be Inspector Alec Hardy but with a bland American accent), in California (but filmed in the area of Vancouver; I thought the show wanted to be northern California). And, Anna Gunn wasn’t quite Olivia Coleman was as the woman cop, Ellie Miller. The changes from the “Broadchuch” could have been a little more and the writing seemed a little weak, but otherwise strong acting. If you hadn’t seen “Broadchuch,” you’d think that “Gracepoint” was better than average tv (and I’d say that it was), but if you saw “Broadchurch,” you know this could have been better (which itself wasn’t great as a British mystery series (I have seen better), but was so intense at the end).

9. Colbert Report / The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central) – farewell to Stephen Colbert! What a weird and sweet way to end! (well, the end of “Stephen Colbert,” the conservative blowhard character; I look forward to see how Colbert the real person takes over for David Letterman). Jon Stewart was great this year, in piercing the silliness of everyone out there (sometimes even himself).

10. Cartoons! I really got into watching “Adventure Time” (Cartoon Network), with the weird and poignant adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the (magic) Dog and their land of Ooo. “The Legend of Korra” (Nickelodeon) – such beautiful artistry and world building, continuing the world of The Avatar, even if I didn’t feel that the writing was paced quite right and I was inconsistent about watching it this fall. I also wasn’t sure what to make of “The Legend of Korra” made available only streaming online, but I’m not the one in power…

11. “Cosmos” (FOX/National Geographic) – Neil de Grasse Tyson and Seth McFarland joined forces to bring science to network tv! On FOX, of all networks! (I’m still not sure how FOX News, as a bizarre force of bizarreness – not that my politics should be that obvious – would be somehow related to the entertainment side of FOX (where FX and regular FOX keep making entertainment that might not fit “family values” and, oh, wow – science!).

12. Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” (PBS) – fascinating review of the lives of Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin. I thought that I couldn’t learn more about them, having read or studied a lot about the Roosevelts, but Burns’ storytelling was engrossing.

13. “Doctor Who” (BBC/BBC America) – Series 8 – with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor (the 12th one, putting aside any quibbles about the numbering of the Doctors) and Jenna Coleman as Clara, the companion. What a great season, despite the plot holes (and sometimes due to them). The Christmas special of 2014 kind of made up for the sadness of the final two episodes – dreams within dreams, and in the end, all you want is to make things up with your friends (or at least, the Doctor and Clara were owed a better Christmas than last year’s, putting aside that the Doctor got a whole bunch of more lives to live; they had a rough time with their crazy adventures this year). The Christmas special of 2014 was memorable for the appearance of Santa Claus, a.k.a. Father Christmas, being played by Nick Frost (whose appearance was a lot more heartwarming than Simon Pegg‘s appearance back during the era of the 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) (Pegg was villain-like for that episode; but, hey, if you want to watch Frost and Pegg together again, feel free to watch Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz).

14. “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” (CBS) – I’ve been terribly inconsistent about watching Craig, but I made sure to watch his last episode, which had a nice opening song with all his past guests (so he and Stephen Colbert had similar ideas on that for their shows) and closing with a dream sequence, which brought back Drew Carey and Craig’s character Mr. Wick (from Carey’s old sitcom). I wasn’t sure what to make of Craig’s having Jay Leno as the final guest, but I suppose Craig wanted to end with a forgiving note (well, not from Craig, anyway, but again, from me and an audience who weren’t sure about that O’Brien and Tonight Show mess) and an homage to the traditional late night tv format (which Craig had long made fun of, with the robot sidekick and puppets).

15. “Community” (NBC) – season 5 was funny and odd, but bittersweet too (farewell to the character of Troy (Donald Glover); and what on earth will Greendale Community College do the next season on Yahoo?).

Honorable mentions:

Vicious” (PBS) – this British sitcom import, with Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen, was biting.

Selfie” (ABC) – well, it was not successful, but it tried to do well with John Cho as a romantic comedy lead; that title never did the show any favors. Nonetheless, I think ABC’s diversity experiment should continue.

Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” (CNN); “The Walking Dead” (AMC); Key & Peele (Comedy Central); Chris Hardwick’s “@midnight” (Comedy Central); “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO) (well, it was terrific from what I was able to watch on YouTube).

I fell behind on “The Americans” (FX); “Suits” (USA); “Justified” (FX); and so much more stuff, so that I can’t speak about them. I’m almost embarrassed about how I’m so behind (ok, make that very embarrassed, but it can’t be helped).

I didn’t get to watch NBC’s “Peter Pan,”the live musical special, but from the anecdotal evidence that I saw on Facebook (not the most accurate source of information, of course), people had a campy good time (having flamboyant pirates and Christopher Walken as Capt. Hook would cause that reaction). NBC had lower ratings than the previous year’s musical experiment (it’s hard to beat the nation’s love for “Sound of Music”), but they should still keep trying, since at least this is a unique thing that gets us thinking about NBC (in ways that, say, the Olympics and “The Blacklist” do not do, even though they’ve done a lot of good for NBC).

I’m probably forgetting other notable stuff of 2014, but I never promise to be comprehensive!