The Martian gets halfway there

It’s taken forever, but I finally got around to reading The Martian, the first book from my “Your Next Great Read” list put together by an actual person from my local library. At first blush, I really liked it, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to see cracks that make it something I definitely enjoyed but not something I’ll buy or read again.

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2019 Media in Review: TV and Books

This was a weird year. In the past, TV and/or movies have dominated my media intake, but not only did I see comparatively few movies, I only finished one season of a non-current TV show (that I’d been slogging through for years), struggled mightily to keep up with my currently-airing shows, and didn’t finish reading any books. I guess I played a lot of Splatoon in between complicated apartment hunting and eventual moving.

Time to finish up the 2019 Media posts and look forward to a more robust 2020.

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2019 Media in Review: Movies at home

I don’t really know what I did all year, but I didn’t watch very many movies at home. Only 14, down from 32 in 2018. Five (35 percent) were things I’d already seen. If you’ll bear with me while I get mathy for a moment, the 2010s was the most represented decade with 8 films (57 percent), followed by the 00s with 4 (28 percent). The 1990s and the 1970s had one each, and the most represented year was 2009. I watched the most movies (7) over the summer and no movies in January, February, May or September.

Here are my picks for Top 3 Movies at Home.

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2019 Media in Review: Movies at the Theater

The new year is upon us, and as such it’s time for the rounds of “What did I watch and read last year?” posts.  Let’s start with the 15 movies I saw at the theater in 2019.

Broadly speaking, I had a taste for adventure, with nine movies (60 percent) falling under that umbrella. Six were straight-up superhero films courtesy Marvel, Sony and DC. It just makes sense to me to see big actiony films on big screens. But I also caught a few dramas and one that ostensibly was horror but in fact really was not.

The following with comments (and review links where available but I wrote about shockingly few movies last year) are broken out into my Top 10 and Bottom 5.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I wasn’t going to write about Rise of Skywalker. I didn’t think I had anything substantive to say that couldn’t be summed up in a tweet, but then I started seeing all the negativity around it. And I mean, on one hand that’s fine. People are allowed to think what they want about a movie, but when I started seeing a lot of “If you really like Star Wars, you hated TRoS” and “Here’s why none of us real fans like the Skywalker saga finale!” And it just irritated me because, I’m not going to start listing out all my Star Wars bona fides — whatever those are — but I’ve been a fan for 25 years and I loved Rise of Skywalker (and so did all the people I’ve talked to face-to-face about it, tyvm, internet). It had everything I wanted, and most importantly, it made me excited about Star Wars again.

So, if you’re feeling a little down about the pervasive online criticism and negativity, this is the post for you! Join me in gushing about this 40+ years in the making conclusion.

Spoilers, obviously.

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Terminator: Dark Fate SPOILER TALK

If you ask me, Terminator: Dark Fate had an incredibly strong opening moment and didn’t really back down from there. From the second the first production company logo company started to roll, I was all in.

This is the post that’s chock-full of spoilers. If you’d rather be reading the spoiler free review,  click this nice word cloud made with all the words in that spoiler free review.

Created at wordclouds.com

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I’m not here for Terminator: Dark Fate hate

So, I’m just going to say right at the top that I loved Terminator: Dark Fate. Where Genisys was an actual(sadly failed) attempt to do a real reboot, Dark Fate is a true sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It’s just not one you can binge watch. It needs a buffer period to make what it does resonate in a meaningful way. And for a first viewing, 28 years is about right.

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All about the Arrowverse

CW’s Arrowverse kicks off its 2019 season tonight with the series premiere of Batwoman, and I could not be last-minuting this wrap-up of last season’s shows any harder. It turns out these shows that are usually my happy-place brain candy TV options really kind of let me down.

Legends of Tomorrow, mostly delivered a fine season but the landing was rough. The Flash was the opposite with the bulk of the season dragged down by elements I didn’t care for, but it pulled up before completely crashing.  And then there was Arrow. Poor Arrow that started it all. After years of defending it against criticism, it’s finally become something I just want to be over because I can’t imagine there’s any saving it. There might be a speck or two to look forward to in the shortened final season, but for the most part, it has failed me hard.

So let’s break it down.

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Fall TV is here again

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Photo by Erik Dungan from FreeImages

I almost didn’t make this post about what I’m planning to watch this TV season. Mostly because I couldn’t find a source I trusted for premiere dates, scheduling and comprehensiveness after I realized so many of the returning shows on the TV Guide roundup had blurbs that were just not at all accurate. And also, from what I did find, there just wasn’t a whole lot of new stuff that I was that interested. Or there was Prodigal Son, which I won’t watch because Fox has broken my heart my too many times and the cast isn’t quite Must-See enough for me to do that again.

But TV Guide has updated, the Fall TV season writ large kicks off today, and here’s what’s on my schedule (all times central). What are you watching?

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Libraries are awesome

I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a couple years ago, and for as unhappy as I was when I arrived after being part of an entire department that was laid off at a job I loved, one thing that’s always stood out to me was how fantastic its public library system is. For the longest time, I didn’t really take advantage of it that much. I’d get the occasional movie, the even less frequent book, and pop in at a branch every now and again if I needed some cat-distraction-free time to apartment hunt or write stuff.

But since my annual goal is always to read more, I decided more frequent library use needed to be a key element. And that’s how I discovered Your Next Great Read, a service inspired by the Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia. This article from The Library Journal goes into a ton of detail, but basically you fill out an online survey about your favorite and least favorite books, what you liked/didn’t like about them, your favorite shows and movies and some other questions about what you’re into and an actual person gives it a look, thinks really hard about it and offers up other authors and books you might like. If your library doesn’t have a similar program, definitely share this one with them to see if it’s something do-able.

“Big deal! Isn’t that just like GoodReads?!”

I mean, sort of, I guess. I don’t know exactly how the algorithms work for suggestions, but I suspect it’s something like “Oh, you rated this book four stars? Here are other books that other people who also rated it four stars also rated highly!” And that’s helpful, but it doesn’t allow for why you like something. It doesn’t know about that book you REALLY SHOULD HAVE LOVED but just kind of hated because of X, Y or Z. (Redshirts, I am looking directly at you.) It doesn’t factor in what you just don’t want to read at this particular moment in time.

Your online rec list algorithm isn’t tailor-made by people who’s job it is to know books.

I filled out my survey a few weeks ago, and in the world of “Everything is instant, gimme gimme now!” the two week wait to get your recommendations may seem interminable, but it’s okay. Really. Go to a movie. Take a walk. Play a game. Two weeks is nothing. Especially when it’s two weeks well worth it.

I did have to give a little nudge on the 15th day, but my library person was very apologetic and immediately got my reading guide to me. It was six-pages that  started with authors I might want to check out, and as I was reading about them, I could really see the rationale that went into choosing them based on the answers I had provided.

I was recommended Daniel H. Wilson and John Wyndham, which most definitely came from my love of The Terminator franchise and Ray Bradbury, and Jasper Fforde and Matthew Quick, which seemed to take my preferences on writing style into account.

martianEach author rec came with a couple books to start with, but then there was an entirely separate category of other books by other people I might like. And really? I’m very excited for the 7/8 of them that I haven’t read. The rationale behind the picks feels just as solid and personalized as the author list, so much so that when the note for Andy Weir’s The Martian says “I know you said first-person narratives aren’t your favorite, but if you can look look past that, give this one a try…” I believe that I should 100 percent overlook my general dislike of first-person fiction for the “gripping tale” about survival and rescue attempts. (The Martian is one of those movies I always meant to see but haven’t. And I pretty much did always discount the book because first-person.)

I just moved again (just a new apartment, not a new job). Unpacking is taking longer than I expected, and I’ve got one book in progress that I want to finish, but I’m looking forward to diving into this list next month. I’m going to shoot for three before the year’s out, starting with:

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir
  2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  3. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham OR You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney if I’m feeling in a nonfiction mood.

Wish me luck (on the unpacking and the reading, please)!

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