Sunday, September 27, 2020

Hey, Big Spender 



Still Here

Still trying to solve my vertigo problems. The ENT doctor scheduled me for a ENG, which flashes lights and other stuff to see how the eyes and ears react. Also checked my hearing which is okay except for high pitched sounds. I guess that is pretty usual at my age. But I still have three MRI/MRAs to do also to find out whether an anomaly in my brain needs correcting. An interventional radiologist will look at them. Never heard of this specialty before. They fix things using minimally invasive techniques. 

Truly horrible week with Trump proposing the most right-wing person yet for SCOTUS.The Republicans seem to have no sense that court packing is not a good idea. Or fair. This woman seems to be close to a cultist.

Enjoyed ENOLA HOLMES on Netflix. It may not please Holmes purists but it was a lot of fun. Still enjoying BORGEN. Dismayed to find, after enjoying the first season of THE SPLIT, that the second is only available on PRIME as a rental. 

Book-wise reading LAB GIRL and MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM, a debut novel by a 70 year old author, Anne Youngson. Josh and family took me out to dinner (outside) last night and friends had me over to dinner (outside) on Friday. As I say repeatedly, although the last few years have been crushingly hard, I am so lucky in my friends and family. 

Remember when we all traveled....This was Sienna, Italy and my friends, the Wolmans about eight years ago. Still hard not to type "our"

What about you?

Friday, September 25, 2020





A Japanese housekeeper with a ten-year old boy takes a job cleaning and cooking for a mathematician whose memory is only good for 80 minutes. This is a dear book. It reminded me a lot of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The story concerns how she circumnavigates this dilemma, the relationship between the housekeeper's son and the professor, the beauty of math, and Japanese baseball. There were a few surprises and some failures for me although I liked the book very much. The housekeeper becomes fairly skilled in math over the course of the book and yet at its end she is still keeping house. The book suggests there might have been some sort of relationship between the professor and his sister-in-law yet never really pursues it. And thirdly, the professor seems to  have little interest in the housekeeper, only her son, which seems strange. Perhaps some of this was lost in translation. Her more recent book The Memory Police was definitely a big leap forward both in concept and in writing. But this was very enjoyable in its own way. There is a film version of this but I can't find out where to stream it so I guess it is lost to us in that format.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Just Watch

 is a very useful app for telling you where a movie or show is playing, both for streaming or for pay.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Still Here

Really like The Housekeeper and the Professor. It's the same author who wrote The Memory Police. Borgen is very good but I am using the dubbed version. It is just easier for me not to have to read subtitles right now and the dubbing is excellent. Also enjoying The Split on Hulu.

VanDerValk was good but not at all like I remember Love in Amsterdam. It's a lot edgier than the typical fare on Masterpiece. Always enjoyed Nicholas Freeling.

Watched MISMATCHED on You Tube last Sunday Night. I don't get as much out of it as I should because I don't get to see that many Broadway shows. It was fun though seeing some live performances. The idea is the performers sing songs they wouldn't normally sing in a musical. Mostly men sing songs women sang and vice-versa. 

I Know Where I Am Going,  is such an unusual film I won't bother describing it but it's on Criterion if you want to dabble with true originality. 

Boy, Schitts's Creek really cleaned up on the Emmy's.  Such a contrast between Succession about a family that is all bad and Schitts Creek about a family who learned to be good.

What about you, guys?

Friday, September 18, 2020



This 2013 collection of around 20 essays written over many years for many different publications is a pleasure to read. Patchett writes of her childhood, her sad first marriage, her much better second one, her father, a cop, who helps her train for entrance into the LA police (for the purposes of a story), her love for a dog, learning opera for BEL CANTO, her relationship with the cancer-disfigured friend written about in TRUTH AND BEAUTY, Clemson University's reaction to that book when she came for a reading, an RV road trip with her second husband, and most of all her development as a writer. I listened to Ann Patchett read her book and that probably enhanced my enjoyment. I think Patchett could make any subject interesting. What a gift.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Still Here

Lots of reading this week. So many friends complain they have lost their focus for reading, but for me, it's the opposite. I find a serenity while reading that few other things afford me. Anne Tyler (The Redhead) writes books where the stakes are not too high and thus her characters' issues are tolerable. In this one, Micah just doesn't know how to get himself a girlfriend. I can handle that. She is very good at setting out an ordinary man's life. Perhaps a bit too good because her characters from book to book are much alike. 

Finished The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane and was seduced enough by the tea she grew to order some. Hugely expensive for a few ounces of tea and it will probably taste like dirt but seduction is a strange thing. 

Also listening to Ann Patchett read her essays. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. She is a terrific essayist. Even when her subject is prosaic, her thought never are.

The book about The Office  was huge fun for me. I do think it was the best comedy of the 2000s. Especially once they figured out what to do with Michael Scott.

Watching the Morses. I am skipping the ones listed as "the worst" on a list I found. I find them very strong in atmosphere and character compared to a lot of the current crop

 Borgen, however, gives it a run for the money. Very smart. Luckily I can watched it dubbed, and very well dubbed, or I would have trouble following Danish politics.

Watching the Albert Brooks movies on Criterion, which don't hold up as well as I expected although they are good enough to kill 95 minutes. Defending Your Life was better than I remembered and Lost in America, not as good.

The strange but fun Charlie Kaufman movie, I Am Thinking of Ending Things, really occupied online chatter this week. Luckily Slate, among other, explained it to me. 

I have lost my cleaner/driver/gardener for a while. Her daughter went into cardiac failure having a baby. This apparently can happen. What a shock it must be. So my help is in Canada till things resolve.

Am I safe taking Uber or Lyft? Not sure. More worried about them not showing up than anything.

Friday, September 11, 2020

FFB The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa

 The location is not identified, nor is the year but on an island somewhere things are disappearing. No one knows why and no one really tries to find out. It is already underway when the novel begins. First it is little things like hats, ribbons, and eventually it is birds and flowers. When the object disappears, so does the memory of it. Except for a small group of people who do remember and it is that group that the memory police are hunting down. 

Our heroine, who is a writer, tries to save a friend who remembers (her editor) with the help of an older man and a dog.  He lives under her floorboards for we don't know how long. As a reader you will have to accept there are many unexplained things and if that upsets you, you may not want to read this book. But both the idea and the execution is so skillful you will be missing a book much like ones by Atwood, Huxley, Orwell but with its own sensibility and lovely writing.  I admired all of the things she didn't explain. And truly you didn't need them explained.

The Memory Police was originally published in 1994 but finally translated last year.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Still Here

The Memory Police was outstanding but I will say more about it on Friday. Hugely depressing but worth it for the originality of the concept and the amazing follow through. Also enjoying the oral history of The Office, which to my mind is the best 30 minute series of the 2000s. Reading about how they worked out what Michael Scott should be like, how Jim and Pam's romance would work, what Dwight Shrute was actually about is a lot of fun. The Office, like most workplace comedies, turns out to be about family. Wasn't the gang on Taxi really a family even though it took place in a taxi garage? Same with all of the better ones, I think. Still reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane for my book group. Pretty Ambivalent about it. Is is basically a romance and why does it trouble me if it is? Have I ever read an out and out romance. Maybe Forever Amber as a ten.

Watched Modern Romance with Albert Brooks this week. Lots of laughs. Also watched the ESPN two-parter on Lance Armstrong. What a jerk. Nice that he has done much to help raise money for cancer but other than that....

Started Borgen and am rewatching Life on Mars. 

Lots of dental stuff. Ugh. As long as I remember I have had dental issues. Scots-Irish teeth, I think. I should have gotten dentures and saved myself a fortune. Also still trying to solve the problem of my dizziness. I have it most autumn but this one is worse than most. Maybe stress is adding to it.

A quiet week here.  What about you?

Friday, September 04, 2020

FFB-NOVEMBER, Georges Simenon

This is one of Simenon’s standalones, which I generally prefer to the more formulaic, of still wonderful, Maigrets. A French family lives comfortably, if claustrophobically, outside of town. The first person narrator is twenty-one and works at the local hospital as a research assistant. She’s having a rather prosaic affair with her employer, an older scientist. Her younger brother is taking classes at the local college, majoring in chemistry. 

The two siblings live with their parents in a state of constant tension. The mother is an alcoholic, and goes on binges that the rest of the family calls ‘novenas’. Her behavior seems to date from the beginning of her marriage and has almost a formal structure to it. The tension of her behavior is palpable throughout the story.

A newly hired maid, a sexually obliging sort of girl, Manuela, from Spain, brings some needed air into this hothouse. Both father and son begin sleeping with her. Neither is satisfied with this arrangement.

When Manuela disappears. it is unclear what has happened and the ambiguity will either intrigue or annoy you. The ending is surprising, yet fitting. This was not my favorite Simenon and yet it succeeded in keeping my interest. Short novels stand a better chance of doing that.


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

First Wednesday Book Review: THE DUTCH HOUSE, Ann Patchett

I listened to Tom Hanks read this book and perhaps that was part of the reason it worked so well for me. Because as I read some Amazon reviews, a lot of readers found this book lacking in a compelling story And I will admit that there was not a lot of plot. You had to be satisfied with an evocation of a family and place to enjoy it. The Dutch House is the story of a family that purchases a large, striking house in Elkins Park, PA. The story is filtered through the son, Danny, and there is initially just a sister (Maeve) and some (beloved) household staff. 

The father is absent a lot and the mother has completely disappeared. The book does not explain what caused this schism until nearly the end. A sad little household evolves into an even sadder household when the father suddenly marries a woman with two little girls. Danny and Maeve are very close and the book dwells a lot on their relationship. Since there is not a lot of plot, I will leave it here but say I found it a very satisfying read, especially through the voice of Tom Hanks. I grew up and went to school in the area that the book takes place in but I don't think that mattered too much. I have liked all of Patchett's work. And all of Tom Hanks' movies. If they ever make A Wonderful Life over again, Hanks should play George. And Ivanka comparing her father to him is the greatest misunderstanding of character I ever remember. 

Find more First Wednesday Reviews at Barrie Summy's blog.