Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reading/Watching/Etc.


READING:

The Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I read a popular book (and its sequels) and (mostly) liked it. I particularly liked how I could breeze through one of these in a week or two's worth of lunch breaks.  Then I went to the Hunger Games movie and mostly liked that, too.

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch
On the whole, I enjoyed it; but, I think she wrote it without really having an ending in mind, and it showed.  Lots of funny anecdotes, but it felt a little unfinished.

I've been feeling some Facebook fatigue lately.  I don't completely agree with this article's hypothesis that we're all growing more disconnected from each other as a result of social media and other societal pressures...but it presents some interesting arguments. 

Maybe some of those feelings of disconnection depend on where you live, and what you use social media for.  Living in the small town where I grew up, and bumping into people I've known since childhood on a daily basis, I can't say I feel particularly isolated or that I'm lacking social connections. And having come of age when internet messageboards were popular, I've found I can carry on some pretty meaningful and profound friendships with people via the written word despite never having met them in person; but, if you're just trolling Facebook reading updates from people you vaguely knew in high school and aren't really interacting in a thoughtful way, then I could see how it would feel a little less fulfilling.

America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom by Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCain
I'm a little over halfway through this one and will probably write a separate entry about it when I'm done.  So far, I like it a lot and frankly, I like the premise of it enough that even if I didn't like it very much, I'd keep reading until I finished it so I could be sure I gave it a fair shake.  The short version: a conservative Senator's daughter and a liberal comedian take a cross-country road trip together to try to understand why our country's political discourse has gotten so vitriolic and us-versus-them.  They argue amongst themselves, visit historical monuments (and monuments to kitsch, like Yakov Smirnoff's theater in Branson), get drunk, shoot guns and get driven around by a former river guide who calls everyone "Gumdrop."  It's structured as sort of a he-said, she-said travel diary, with the narration flipping back and forth between them every couple of pages, and while I think Black's a stronger writer, McCain's sections are interesting, too, as she discusses how she's perceived as a "wild child" by the Republican establishment and how she's trying to blaze a trail for more socially-liberal conservatives within her party.  Anyway, it's an interesting read and frequently a very funny one, too.

City of Strays: Detroit's Epidemic of 50,000 Abandoned Dogs (Rolling Stone)
We hear so much about the economic crisis on the news, and yet it seems like the majority of the coverage I've seen in the last few years is about the big, broad aspects of it - the mortgage meltdown, the instability (and outright deceit) in the banking system, the bailouts.  Stories like this one that appeared in Rolling Stone a few months ago aren't getting as much attention as they should.  (If you're inspired to learn more about Detroit Dog Rescue after reading it, like I was, you can check them out here or find them on Facebook, where they post lots of adoption updates and some very cute dog pictures.)


WATCHING:

On the flip side of the "oh, poor Detroit" coin is this 3-part miniseries that aired on Ovation earlier this month.  This documentary features a bunch of young artists and creative entrepreneurs in Detroit -- some who grew up there and have stayed out of loyalty, and some who have moved there to help revitalize the community.  The show's greatest strength is the people it profiled, and how it showed them coming together to mingle artistically and as problem-solvers - there was a lot of talk about the power of art to give people hope and a sense of purpose, and also some very tangible, here's-what-we-can-do-right-now-to-fix-this projects coming together (one young woman designed a coat that could turn into a sleeping bag for homeless people; another set up an organization that helped families moving into transitional housing get free furniture from curbside donations).  Very inspiring and positive - if I were a little younger and a little braver, this show might've convinced me to pull up stakes and join them on the new frontier down there in Michigan.

I wanted to like this, but didn't.  I get that it had to bow to its corporate overlord and sing the praises of the Michaels Wall™ ad nauseum, but some of the stuff on that wall isn't even sold in Michaels stores (fabric, for instance - at least not at any of the Michaels stores I've ever been to) and the projects they were assigned to make were too impractical to be functional or inspiring.  I mean, honestly, who's going to watch this, see those ugly duffel bags they cobbled together, and say "I must have one of those for myself"?  Or build an homage to that weird "school bus" playhouse to plunk in their backyard?  Doubtful.  The idea for this show's got potential, but I think it would take a channel like DIY or HGTV to really make it interesting (TLC's way too cutesy with everything).  And while I didn't mind Tori Spelling as host, just think how much fun it would be if they got somebody like Amy Sedaris involved. 

The Artist
Did it deserve to win the Oscar?  I'm not sure.  But it certainly was charming.

21 Jump Street
More clever than I was expecting -- the novelty of the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum pairing reminded me of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys (in a good way).

Men in Black 3
What a pleasant surprise - I didn't have high hopes for this one at all, but came away really liking it.  I'll have to rent the first two one of these days to refresh my memory...I remember really liking them at the time they came out, but haven't seen them since.

The Avengers
The first 3D movie I've been to where it felt like the 3D wasn't just a huge freakin' distraction (or a way to pry more money out of my wallet at the ticket stand).  Loved the story and the characters and frankly, I was impressed that they managed to pull it off.  When they first started talking about all the prequel movies and this giant melting pot of Marvel characters years ago, I thought it would fall off the rails somewhere along the line, but this really came together beautifully.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, seasons 3-6
There are some standout episodes in here ("a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants"), but a couple of major duds, too (like the one where Murray reveals his sudden, out-of-nowhere-and-is-never-brought-up-again "infatuation" with Mary as a romantic object -- WTF?).  Also: I miss Rhoda.  One more season to go.

Sports Night, season one
The AV Club is doing a run-through of the first season this summer, and I figured that was a good excuse to finally cross it off my to-watch list.  While some of the Aaron Sorkin speechifying still grates on me once in a while, I like it much better than Studio 60.  (Thank goodness.)

Curb Your Enthusiasm, season 8
I hope they keep making this show forever & ever & ever.



ETC.:

- Crocheting!  Making baby blankets lately, and very much looking forward to moving on to something else.

- Flannery went to the vet last week: she weighs over twelve pounds.  Apparently Toivo (and the rest of the family) have rubbed off on her.  Say goodbye to the Pounce treats for a while, my fat little dumpling! 

- I know the 4th of July is fast approaching when I come around the corner of Vaughn Avenue one morning and find a carnival parked on 3rd Street.  Hello, annual pre-4th of July detour!  (Albeit a very short detour.)

June 28.


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