Posts

Showing posts from 2019

Best of the Decade Part Three: Movies & Television

Image
So this last 'Best of' list was probably the most difficult one to put together of any of them. Movies are tough: we've got three kids and so we're in that 'wait until it shows up on streaming' stage of our movie watching existence- with the occasional family movie trip to the movies. (And occasional date nights as well, but we need to be more consistent about those in 2020 I think.) Television was easier: if we entertain ourselves these days it's usually through streaming the latest show on Netflix or something. So, let's wrap it up with Movie and TV:

MOVIES

15. Molly's Game: written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, I'm going to make a bold declaration here, so buckle your seatbelts: this might be the best movie that Sorkin has ever written, because it focuses so much on poker and not politics and it's remarkably free of the Sorkinisms that seem to follow his writing around through television and movies. I loved it.

14. Mad Max Fury Road: People…

Netflix & Chill #70: The Irishman

Image
Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2019
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Rotten Tomatoes: Tomatometer 96%/Audience Score 86%
Pick: Mine

The movie opens with an elderly man, whom we learn is Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro) recounting his time as a Mafia hitman-- the movie then flashes back to the 1950s in Philadelphia. Sheeran, a delivery truck driver, starts to divert some of his deliveries to the local crime family. His company accuses him of theft, but a union lawyer, Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano) gets him off after Sheeran refuses to give the judge the names of his customers. He then gets introduced to Bill's cousin, Russell (Joe Pesci) and Sheeran starts to do jobs for the local crime family including murders (or, as people like to refer to it as "painting houses.")

Russell eventually introduces Sheeran to President of the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) who has ties with the Bufalino crime family and is fighting both rivals within the …

Best of the Decade Part Two: Music

Image
So, music was difficult. I don't really listen to albums all that much anymore. I've also seen some incredible concerts over the past ten years. There are also songs that stuck in my head as well- either through influencing my writing or just in general. So, instead of doing one flavor of music-- like 'album' or 'song' I just went ahead and did a big old mish-mash of the best music of the past decade.  Here it is:

Honorable Mentions: Y'all, this list was actually harder than it looked to put together. I had to some real deep contemplation on who rose to the level of being impactful enough to make the list versus music I listened to a lot but not quite that much. So, Lorde and Vampire Weekend score Honorable Mentions for artists while Atmosphere (live at 80/35) and Blake Shelton (live at The Great Jones County Fair) score Honorable Mentions for concerts.

15."2009", Mac Miller: This is quite literally the only song of Mac Miller's I have ever lis…

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means: The IG Report

So, for months now (and when I say months, I mean months) the Conservative blogosphere has been insisting that the truth will be revealed and we'll find out what the Deep State was really up to when the Inspector General's Report comes out. It'll all make sense then.

Well, it finally dropped and... It's not nothing, which is what most of cable news seems to be treating it as. But it's not proof of Deep State perfidy either.

First of all, +1 to the Inspector General for including a 25 page executive summary of the report and it's findings right up front. I mean, don't get me wrong- if I really have too, I'll dig through all four hundred or so pages of a report, but having spent two months picking my way through the Mueller Report I wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to do it again. I'll acknowledge that the Executive Summary may not have everything and all the details, so I might be missing some nicities and legalese in all of these…

Best of the Decade Part One: Books

Image
So I've got this weird thing about 'End of the Year' lists, especially for music. I don't know why, because inevitably, I read the list of the 'Best Albums of [Insert Year Here]' and maybe recognize two of them- at most. Same thing with Best Books and hell, even best movies. I was all set to plunge into figuing out whether the 'Best Songs of 2019' actually delivered on the hype, when it sort of hit me that the people who makes "Best of" lists are usually critics who listen to a shitload of music/read a shitload of books/watch a shitoad of movie/TV for a living and thus have a far wider palate than you or I might, dear reader- though in the case of television, the golden age of streaming has made that far less of a possibility than it used to be.

The long and the short of it: I figured why not make my own, 'Best of the Decade' lists. So I'm starting with books, there will be another one for Music and one for Movies/Television. For …

Hayden Fry, 1929-2019

Image
The first Iowa football game I can remember watching was the Rose Bowl in 1991. I'm not quite sure I grasped the significance of the game, but I did know that Iowa lost to Washington and remember being very satisfied when we thumped them in the Sun Bowl in 1995. My Dad had faculty season tickets for football for a few seasons until one too many frigid November games against Minnesota and the general disinterest from myself and my siblings made him give them up. I remember going to see the NCAA Games at Carver Hawkeye Arena in 1993 when they made their run to the Final Four.

I guess my point is that I was always aware of Hawkeye sports in some flavor or another, but never really dug deep and started paying attention to sports with any seriousness until about 1998 or so.

But I knew who Hayden Fry was.

I think that alone should tell you how iconic the man was. I was a bookish kid, only tangentially aware of sports until I hit high school, but I knew who Hayden Fry was.  Walk around …

The Brexit Election- Or Was It?

Image
I did my level best to ignore the UK's election campaign, because I had this terrible feeling that it would result in yet another hung Parliament and yet another extension of the never ending tortuous process of Brexit. My wish for the Motherland, heading into the big day yesterday was for voters to pick one. A veritable kaleidoscope of pro-Remain parties or a clear and convincing mandate for Brexit with the Conservatives. Turns out, they went with the latter.

Polls were showing a pretty consistent 10 point lead for the Conservatives through the campaign, but in recent days some polls seemed to be showing a surge for Labour and most every media outlet over there had it as too close to call when voting started. Then, the Exit Poll came out and showed a prediction of a majority of 86 for the Conservatives. I was somewhat stunned and somewhat dubious at the same time, as America's experience with Exit Polls has been somewhat... mixed to say the least. (It does seem that all plat…

Netflix & Chill #69: The King

Image
Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2019
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Lily-Rose Depp, Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed By: David Michod
Rotten Tomatoes: 70% Tomatometer/85% Audience Score
Pick: Mine

I haven't really dealt with the Henrys or many of Shakespeare's monarchical/historical plays, to be honest. My first encounter with the Saint Crispin's Day speech was actually the end of Renaissance Man (deep cut, I know.) I don't think I've ever actually read any of Henry IV Part I or Henry IV Part II, so I approached this more contemporary, non-Shakespearean take on Henry V with something of an open mind as I knew the basic outlines of the story and not much else.

The King tells the story of Henry, Prince of Wales (Timothee Chalamet), who goes by Hal and who is estranged from his father, King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn). He spends his days drinking, whoring and generally avoiding being a Prince as much as he can with his companion, John Falstaf…

This Week In Vexillology #298

Image
We're back! November was consumed by beating Book 3 into shape and so I didn't do much in the way of blogging, but now it's Saturday and we're back on the TWIV-Train with two more flags from the strange and kind of formally recognized world of separatist movements and sub-national autonomous regions.

First up, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus:
If you're thinking to yourself, 'hey, that looks a lot like the flag of Turkey' well, you'd be correct because without the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, there wouldn't be a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I can't even remember which class it was an undergraduate where I wrote the paper on Cyprus, but I do know that learning about this conflict was one of the most interesting things I've ever done. I didn't realize that Cyprus was a divided island and that Nicosia was Europe's last divided capitals.

So why the invasion back in the day? Well the TL;DR of it all is that after the…

Let's Kill Hitler: Or, Why Can't Ted Kennedy Be President?

So, I've never really dabbled in alternate history as a writer, but I've read plenty of it as a reader and on the whole, I tend to find the whole concept fascinating. Shows like 'Man In The High Castle' are like catnip to me. (Even though I've stalled out somewhere in Season 2, I think- because given it's subject matter, I find it better in small doses rather than one long, large binge.) It was not surprising, however, when I found myself in an extensive discussion on Discord about the ins and outs of using time travel to kill Hitler. (I'm pretty sure I answered a similar question about this on Quora as well awhile back.
So, let's talk about the notion. Assuming time travel is real and possible, would it be advisable to go back in time and kill Hitler with the aim of preventing the whole World War II/Holocaust thing? 
No, I wouldn't. Because killing Hitler wouldn't actually solve the problem. If you really want to alter history to eliminate Germ…

Bookshot #125: Shortest Way Home

Image
The 'I'm running for President, so I wrote a book' thing has become so ubiquitous that it practically qualifies as it's own genre now. Off the top of my head I think Senator Klobuchar and Senator Harris both have books out- undoubtedly Joe Biden has one floating around somewhere from years past and I'm pretty sure Bernie and Booker have had books out in the world for awhile now as well. In general, I don't read these books-- though, one of these electoral cycles it'd be interesting to buy all the books and read them and see how that changed my opinions/thoughts on any of these candidates.

Despite my previous aversion to these type of books, I had a free credit from Audible and Pete Buttigieg was a candidate I was looking to learn more about, so I snagged an audio version of his book Shortest Way Home and gradually began working my way through it. My second audiobook ever, it's narrated by the Mayor himself, which lends a certain amount of authenticity t…

I Figured It Out: Clannad vs Clannad

Image
Unless you're a fan of world music and/or Enya, few people probably remember the Irish Band Clannad, whose heyday was most definitely the late 80s and early 90s. Awareness of them on the other side of the Atlantic probably peaked with the Daniel Day-Lewis film The Last of the Mohicans, which featured their theme for the movie: 'I Will Find You.'

Then Enya went solo. Music shifted. That whole weird moment where bands like Enigma and Lorena McKinnit saw actual radio play in America seemed to pass. But as all things with one's youth, bands like that stick in your head. I mean, it's just how youth works. You'll have these random bands and random songs that just rattle around your head and whether you like it or not, it has an effect on your musical taste- even if it's only on a peripheral level.

So, I'm sitting there, doing laundry and a weird fragment of a song popped into my head. I went to the Googles to see if I could figure out what it was and searched…

Squawk Box: New Fall TV

New Shows:  Fall means the usual avalanche of new shows across the networks and while it's almost impossible to watch all of them, I checked out a few episodes of the ones that drew my eye and this is what I've got. All Rise (CBS) is kind of an interesting change of pace for the whole idea of the 'courtroom drama.' Focusing on newly appointed Judge Lola Carmichael played by the excellent Simone Missick, lately Misty Knight on the Luke Cage and Iron Fist. There's a fish out of water aspect to this show that is kind of cool: she's trying to figure out how to be a Judge and there's CSI vet Marg Helgenberger floating around as a fellow judge who is all too ready to step in with helpful advice. I feel like there's a lot of growth potential with this show-- to be honest, I find a lot of it so far just sort of okay, but Missick is the kind of actor that can anchor a show and keep it going long enough for it to go through some growing pains and find it's fe…

The (Entirely Rushed and Somewhat Half-Assed) Lit City Blues Endorsements

The Quiet Man texted me yesterday and asked for my thoughts about the upcoming election, which caused to lean back in my chair and say, "oh, yeah. There's an election coming up on Tuesday." So, despite fighting whatever form of seasonal crud ran through the family last week before landing on me and having minimal sleep and absolutely no motivation to do anything, I sat down took to the internet and did my homework.. This is what I came up with.

City Council: Our Fearless Leaders declared a 'Climate Emergency' at some point this year, which made my eyes roll so far back in my head that they just did a full 360 and popped back up the other side. I mean, part of me gets it- but, at the same time: come on, people. Have y'all seen the cost of living in this community? Too many people who work here can't afford to live here and if you have a city where that is increasingly the rule and not the exception to the rule we've got a problem. Still think that the &…

Pour One Out for Deadspin

So, over the past couple of days in protest of a mandate handed down by their new owners, a large swathe of staff resigned from Deadspin rather than comply with the dictum from their new owners to quote 'stick to sports.'  I have no idea what this means for the overall quality and future of the site, but it felt pretty final. It felt like a hammer blow to me- which is sort of a shame, because over the years, Deadspin has been one of the websites that I usually check on a fairly regular basis. Maybe it'll stagger on, a shade of it's former self, but I kind of doubt it.

While there was a certain amount of schaudenfreude** out there about Deadspin's implosion, there was also a lot of solidarity for their writers in my Twitter feed. The current media landscape is something I have no direct knowledge of but seems absolutely brutal these days. Facebook and their 'pivot to video' a couple of years back seems to have been utter bullshit- and there were rounds of la…