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44 Responses

  1. Avatar James K says:

    I think I’d go with Orphan Black as the best of the year.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Went to the library yesterday and picked up:

    Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America by Donald L. Miller

    Material Dreams: Southern California Through the 1020s by Kevin StarrReport

  3. Avatar Glyph says:

    Well, you didn’t like Hannibal. And you should already know about The Americans, which kicked ass last season, and Game of Thrones, because, duh.

    So I’ll just throw these out there again, some of which may have been released pre-2014 but I watched this year.

    Black Mirror
    Les Revenants (The Returned)

    Fargo’s popularity is inexplicable to me. Great cast, nice cinematography, but feels empty and pointless, with some bonus eye-rollingly forced quirk.

    Seriously, fish Billy Bob saying “erstwhile”.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Glyph says:

      I loved Fargo, especially BBT’s performance.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I loved the performances, including BBT (“Aces!”), but felt let down by the ending. And I didn’t believe for a second that Martin Freeman could change so much in such a short time.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

      @glyph , I just saw the first episode of Black Mirror. Gah! I know you and others have related it to the Twilight Zone, but emotionally for me the closest comparison is probably the first Saw movie.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Never saw Saw so I can’t speak to the comparison, but the remaining episodes are slightly less brutal…or, maybe brutal in different ways.

        I get why they started with that one, because it sort of lets you know that punches won’t be pulled, but…yeah.Report

      • Now that I think about it, IT’S EXACTLY LIKE THE FIRST SAW MOVIE. As in the actual plot is pretty much beat-for-beat the same. The struggles the characters go through are the same. The villain is pretty much the same too if you view it through the right lens.

        I’ll watch the second episode once the scaring from this one has healed a bit. Am I writing #2 up?Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This past week not much was watched except for the ‘Hawks-Cards game and a few annual Christmas movies with the family. Last night I was feeling under the weather and tried a bit of the TV-ization of From Dusk Till Dawn, but it didn’t do much for me despite my liking avery single performance in it.

    It has been a huge reading week, though, which has been awesome. Books that I have started, continued, or finished over the past week or so have been:

    Blood on the Fields, the book on religion, civilization and violence by Karen Armstrong, which is blowing my mind. I should to a OTC about its central thesis(es), because it’s pretty much snapping my head back.

    Laughing Monsters by Dennis Johnson, which is a damn quick (and satisfying) read.

    The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, because I so loved his Rose and Fall of Great Powers.

    The Painter by Peter Heller, which I’m only just beginning.

    A Deadly Wandering, Matt Richtel’s new book about the negative impact of technology on our brains and our lives. (A great non-fiction pairing with Black Mirror, btw.)

    Station Eleven by Emily Mandel, a kind of post-apocalyptic musing on the power of art.

    I also powered through my umpteenth reading of Confess, Fletch, because I really do love that book.

    And before the day is over, I plan to start in on The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace, which I have been hearing really good things about.

    I might also ask Mike to recommend a classic that he doubts I’ve heard of, since I’ve been enjoying his quizzes so much.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I tell you, I feel like Maribou these days!Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @tod-kelly – do you want to do that Black Mirror recap (ep 1, “The National Anthem”)?

      Didn’t know there was a new Denis (not ‘Dennis’:-) Johnson out. Jesus’ Son and Already Dead were really good, and Tree of Smoke was OK.

      Still working my way slowly through Horns by Joe Hill.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Rose and Fall of Great Powers

      The fall is often accompanied by senseless violets.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      A Deadly Wandering, Matt Richtel’s new book about the negative impact of technology on our brains and our lives

      This one hits some serious biases for me right up front.

      1) Yet another book by a journalist that seems to grasp for a huge statement about our modern world…I have developed a deep hatred of journalists due to this type of writing. Friedman, Gladwell, and umpteen others–they’re a plague and should be treated as such.

      2) Yet another “the modern world is destroying us!” tome? I’m sure this time, unlike the ones written for the last 5,000 years, it will be true.

      I’m sure I’m being unfair to it, and certainly I’m giving my inner curmudgeon free rein, but the very mention of such books makes me reach for my war hammer.

      YMMV. 😉Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        I liked it better this way.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

        Oh oh oh!!! I can play this about books I haven’t read too!

        Man, Hernando de Soto Polar’s The Other Path hits some serious biases for me right up front.

        1) Yet another book by an economist that seems to grasp for a huge statement about our modern world based on a small microcosm… I have developed a deep hatred of economists due to this type of writing. Easterly, Neuwirth, and umpteen others–they’re a plague and should be treated as such.

        2) Yet another “the non-capitalist world is destroying us!” tome? I’m sure this time, unlike every book promising to tell us the one single way to global prosperity over the past 5,000 years, it will be true.

        Man, that was easy! And fun! Plus, I didn’t even have to take the time to read it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        Awesome, Tod. That was fun!Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

        Friedman, Gladwell, and umpteen others–they’re a plague and should be treated as such.

        I agree completely, and that was true about Friedman even before he went to Chile.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

        OOC, what is everyone’s problem with Gladwell?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        Pop sociologist, pop psychologist, readable.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        Of course de Soto is something more than just a journalist, and he has a whole research team that actually does real research, and his writing is based on that real research.

        Journalists rarely have a deep understanding of any field. They know an amazing number of facts about something, but the actual disciplinary knowledge that really helps a person sort through those facts and make real sense of them is usually missing.

        Why are the best books on evolutionary theory written by real biologists, the best books on physics written by real physicists, and the best books on economics written by real economists? Because they know more than just a bundle of facts and have more than just a superficial understanding of the relevant theoretical bases for analyzing those facts.

        (Politics has no actual good popular books: Everything written by journalists and political hacktivists are lacking all relevant theoretical knowledge, and political scientists for some reason appear uninterested in, or incapable of, writing popular works….or it could be that the field still has too little real knowledge on which to build a truly intelligent popular book.)

        Gladwell, as I’ve noted here before, is an insanely good writer, one of the few of whom I’m actually feel-it-in-my-bones jealous. So good that fools the reader into thinking he’s saying something profound, or at least definitely true. On a closer reading and some reflection, his arguments are generally very superficial and based on very flimsy evidence.

        I’m not opposed to all writing by journalists. Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why seemed pretty solid to me (although, admittedly, it’s not my field so I might have missed out on the weaknesses an expert would catch).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        about books I haven’t read

        Of course the subtext to my point is that if the book is a supposedly serious book written by a journalist, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of not needing to read it, and having that criticism be right. Oh, sure, you’ll be wrong sometimes, but if you were wagering on each case you’d come out way ahead.

        And you’d come out much further ahead if you wagered only on the “this newfangled thing is doing bad things to us” genre.

        Chicken Littleism always sells well, but the sky rarely falls. Call it looming-disaster-porn.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

        when the sky does fall (and it does, often enough) you’ll find that significant numbers of people were predicting it significantly before it falls. [Naturally, the sky doesn’t fall on everyone. Certainly not at once].

        I’ll bet nobody 15 years ago predicted that Americans would be leaving crops to rot in the fields… (check the NYT for the cite, it’s in ND.)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley Man, where to begin?

        1. Why do you assume it’s a sky is falling book? (At least so far, it is not.)

        2. Assuming the world is always changing, what is the problem with noting how it is changing and taking stock of the things we are both gaining and losing?

        3. I’m curious as to what you thought was so misguided about, lets just say, The Tipping Point.

        I ask because — and I’m sure you are the exception — most people I have come across who hate Gladwell confesses once I ask this that they have never actually read any of his stuff. They just know he writes best sellers, gives TED talks, and they people in business suits read him on the airplane and so they decide he must be a douchebag.

        I like him (when I had a sales force I required everyone to read TTP), and even though I think some things of his are weaker than others (Blink comes to mind) the comment that Gladwell thinks he’s being profound strikes me as being an odd one, since I can’t think of a single book or essay I’ve read by him where he’s tried to pass himself off that way.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        I have read some of his work, including the whole of “What the Dog Saw.” And that’s why I haven’t read “The Tipping Point.”*

        As to my guess–admittedly a guess–about the book under discussion, I read the blurb at Amazon.
        From Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Matt Richtel, a brilliant, narrative-driven exploration of technology’s vast influence on the human mind and society … examines the impact of technology on our lives through the story of Utah college student Reggie Shaw, who killed two scientists while texting and driving. … Richtel interweaves Reggie’s story with cutting-edge scientific findings regarding human attention and the impact of technology on our brains, proposing solid, practical, and actionable solutions to help manage this crisis individually and as a society. … A Deadly Wandering explores one of the biggest questions of our time—what is all of our technology doing to us?—and provides unsettling and important answers and information we all need.

        If that’s not a “sky is falling” blurb, I’ve never read one. If it doesn’t accurately reflect the book, then the blurb writers should be vilified for false advertising.

        Assuming the world is always changing, what is the problem with noting how it is changing and taking stock of the things we are both gaining and losing?

        Because we never really understand what we’re gaining and losing as it’s happening. That’s the journalist’s conceit, that they can explain things to us in real time. I’m on the historians’ side; it’s going to take a while to really make sense of all this.

        Of course we want to try to understand, because it’s puzzling. And the journalists feed on that desire, as well as on their own delusions of being able to understand contemporary social change, to make a good living. Not that they’re doing anymore harm than the folks who keep telling me that drinking the right vodka will make me cool.

        Look, I fully admit I could be wrong about this particular book. I’ll stand firm on my claim that I’m right about the genre in general. The nature of journalism is to swoop in, do some cursory reading that probably feels like serious research to the journalist but that doesn’t compare to the depth of knowledge a dedicated scholar has, write something about it, without knowing what their cursory research didn’t cover, and then move on to another topic to do the same thing all over again. There’s a reason they call it journalism, not scholarship, and the purveyors journalists rather than scholars.

        *Re: “The Tipping Point.” One of my habits is to read the bad reviews of books on Amazon before the good ones. I ignore the ones that are clearly ideologically motivated (“This author is a commie/socialist/fascist/market-fundamentalist,” etc.) and look for the ones making substantive critique. So just now I did this for TTP. Lo and behold, the first 1 star review begins:

        This book has no substance. There is one central idea – if a phenomenon reaches a certain critical mass, it will grow exponentially. Gladwell then “backs up” this idea with anecdotal fluff that is mildly entertaining, but a waste of the reader’s time.

        That’s pretty much how I’ve described him.

        The third review contains this:

        This is the second Gladwell book I’ve read, and unfortunately its as bad as the first (Blink!). His basic point is that little things can make a big difference. Gladwell’s problem, however, is that he doesn’t know what he’s writing about, and it’s a fatal flaw.

        For example, early in this book he relates how a “small change” in Brooklyn policing strategies turned into a “large drop” in crime. In reality, Gladwell is wrong on both counts. “Broken windows” policing referred to by Gladwell was a large (not small change), and the “large drop” in crime Gladwell referred to had little or nothing to do with it. [This reviewer then goes on to explain that claim, which is well supported in the criminology literature.]

        The fourth 1 star review says in part:

        It was a series of assertions with promises to delight and explain, and the explainations and proof never came. Worse, the reader is left believing that these assertions are facts. …
        Mr. Gladwell continually asserts that a statistical correlation implies cause and effect. …

        These are not ideologically motivated reviews, but substantive critiques. And at that point I decide that the odds of my finding TTP worth my time and money are quite remote.

        Anyway, I was familiar with Mort Grodzins’ and Tom Schelling’s original development of the concept of tipping points (well, the original concept was in physics, but their application to sociological questions) before Gladwell wrote his book.Report

  5. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Everything TV-wise is on hold due to current events. Hoping to finish The Bridge soon, though. I’ve been making use of Animaniacs to help with the kid.

    Audiobookwise, it’s been Bosch all the way. One of my audiobook is three in one, but not three consecutive ones, so I’m going to get through the whole thing including detours to books in between the ones on the collection.Report

  6. Avatar aaron david says:

    Books, well, started working on The Righteous Mind by Haight, and still wending my way through Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. After those, the new Murakami and Beyond the Reach of Empire: Wolseley’s Failed Campaign to Save Gordon and Khartoum. My son the college radio DJ is visiting, so I will get my annual list of Things Worth Listening Too. Very excited about that.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to aaron david says:

      Let me know what you think of Haidt.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Chris says:

        So far I am really enjoying it. A lot for me to learn as I was never really a psych kinda guy.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Chris says:

        After you read and have some time to digest Haidt, I would strongly recommend also reading The Political Mind by Avi Tuschman. The books share a common thesis, that our political attitudes are largely shaped by psychological characteristics that are — like most things — determined by a roughly 50-50 mix of nature and nurture.

        Each book has its strengths and weaknesses but taken together they present, to me at least, a fascinating and pretty convincing case. After reading those I find myself reading comments here and thinking, “Well, given that you’re a [conservative/liberal] (known from prior interactions) OF COURSE you would say that.”

        Where they both miss the mark in my opinion, is in totally dismissing any orientation that doesn’t fit neatly onto the predominant left/right axis. Libertarians in particular but also their polar opposite communitarian types are ignored despite having a well-defined philosophy that’s at least, if not more!, consistent than most garden-variety conservatives and liberals. Tuschman seems to perhaps anticipate this criticism since he devotes a chapter solely to justifying that framing.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Chris says:

        Road, did you mean Our Political Nature by Tuschman?Report

  7. Avatar Stillwater says:

    From TPM:

    On Sunday, Chuck Todd debated the value of political comedy shows like “The Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight” with a panel of comedians on Sunday’s edition of “Meet The Press.” … The roundtable was a response to a critique of Jon Stewart’s approach to satire by Salon’s Elias Isquith last Monday, which quoted former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) criticizing the comedian’s program.

    Seems like only yesterday he was knee high!Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

        The Elias piece didn’t more me. Stewart is a loud voice but parties and movements are made up of a million moving pieces. Some Stewart Snark isn’t going to make or break any liberal movement. A few million more or less voters will. No tv show has such a high viewer ship they will create or destroy millions of voters. It’s possible to enjoy a cuppa snark and engage in long form political pieces, boring PDF’s with actual data or not pay attention to anything else.

        Oh yeah, if Stewart wants to keep getting some R big wigs he needs to make sure his place is safe enough for them to come on. Does limbugh get many big time D’s or liberals? Why would they go on his shit show. Hell its the same thing for chuckie todd and meet the press, if they ask to many hard questions or press on BS pols will stop coming around. Except for McCain of course who will be appearing on MTP three years after he is dead.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        I read it quickly, so some of the subtlety might have escaped me, but I didn’t really see much of anything there other than a call for a more mature liberalism (and that Stewart is partly responsible for delaying liberal adulthood). The part that struck me is that on the one hand, he accuses Stewart of going for the one-sided snarky laugh while on the other he accuses him of adopting a self-serving (or something) “both sides do it” view. To me the problem isn’t that Stewart is doing anything wrong (or right) but that Elias’ view of “mature liberalism” is mythical. Or question begging. Or unarticulated, at least.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater says:

        Using Bill Maher as a contrast, Frank said that the HBO host is “very funny, but also has good and bad guys on the show.”

        … It’s the shallowness of Stewart’s politics that leads to his other notable weakness as a political pundit (which, “just a comedian” protestations aside, he clearly is); namely, his tendency to fall prey to the trap of blaming “both sides.”

        Basically, Isquith is saying that Stewart should stop being Stewart and start being more like Salon. Seems legit.

        Also, the idea that John Stewart is going out of his way to be non-partisan is only true in the strictest definition of the word partisan. He is not putting out a show that is overtly in the service of the Democratic Party, but it is certainly meant to appeal to a certain left-of-center, progressive-minded viewer. Isquith’s argument boils down to complaining that Stewart is producing a show for comfortably smug progressive liberals when he should be producing one for more radical leftists. As you might expect, I agree with half of that sentiment.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        It’s one of those “full circle” things, I think. Liberals need to become more like Evangelicals.

        We used to ask about anything that we were doing: “Would you want to be doing that when the Rapture happened?” Not merely a defense against pounding one out, it was also a defense against listening to the wrong music, having seconds, or pretty much anything that we knew God would find not only shameful, but less awesome than stuff we could be doing.

        We look at Jon Stewart’s Today Show and see what he’s doing as being the equivalent of listening to Kiss albums. Shouldn’t he be doing more to bring Glory to God? Shouldn’t we be doing more?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        Isquith talking about what Stewart does is a case of the media talking about the media talking about the media.

        He’s made the show.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

        We used to ask about anything that we were doing: “Would you want to be doing that when the Rapture happened?”

        Like flying in an airplane where the whole fight crew has been saved? (There really needs to be an FAA regulation that at least one of them is Jewish, or atheist, or at least Catholic.)Report