My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 3/5/21

It was a back to normal week for me as my daughter is back to school. My viewing was no longer focused on shows that she watches. I had more time alone to read and watch TV alone. Here’s my week.

Movies– I don’t think I watched a movie this week. I know I’ve browsed the guide on FIOS multiple times during off hours to try to find an old movie to watch. I did land on Love Me Tender at one point, but I didn’t really watch it. We were more focused on catching up on TV shows this week.

TV – While my daughter was still home we watched all of the episodes of Snowpiercer that were on the DVR. This season is very good and I’m sad that I have to wait for my daughter to watch the rest. I finished Greek. I wrote about it here. I watched the first of the bonus epiosdes of The Walking Dead. I know a lot of people have given up on it, but I still like revisiting the TWD universe, I’m looking forward to seeing how Maggie and Negan living in the same town works out. We watched the season premiere of New Amsterdam. I was happy that they did a montage of the hospital dealing with Covid, but then moved ahead in time instead of focusing on it for the season. I think it’s more interesting to see the issues facing a hospital post-Covid. I got up early today to watch the finale of WandaVision before I had a chance to see spoilers. I think it was a good finale. It completed the story and had end credit scenes that set up the next story for at least one character. It was a very good show.

Books – I finished two books and gave up on one this week:

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee – This is an account of a group of young second-generation Japanese American citizens in San Francisco whose lives are changed by the mass US incarcerations of World War II. The story is told through the eyes of different teens as were move from the rumors of “evacuation” after Pearl Harbor into the incarceration camps. We follow their lives in the camps. We follow two of them to the front lines of the war as they fight to prove their loyalty to the country. We follow some families to a more secure camp after they refuse to say yes to a loyalty contract. We eventually follow them back to San Francisco after the war. It is very good.

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler – This is the one I stopped reading. It got very good reviews. That’s why I got it from the library. It is about a woman who finds out her boyfriend is secretly running a right wing conspiracy theory social media account. We then flashback to when they met and then forward again to after she finds out. I gave it 90 pages and I just didn’t care about the story. I didn’t enjoy reading it. I don’t have time to waste on bad books. There are too many good ones out there to read. I still counted it on my books read list because I gave it several days.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang – I love Yang’s work and this one is just as good as his other books. Yang taught at Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland. The basketball team has gone to the state championship game multiple times and lost. In 2015 they had their best shot yet of winning. Yang decides to travel with the team and write a graphic novel about the season. I am a big basketball fan, so I was pretty sure I was going to love it and I did. I think people who aren’t basketball fans will also enjoy it. He tells the story of the team, but also includes a lot of historical details about the game.

On Deck – There are several movies streaming that I would like to watch – Judas and the Black Messiah, Coming 2 America, Boss Level. I’m not sure which ones we will watch. I think my wife will want to rewatch Coming to America before watching the sequel. We should probably watch Judas first since it will leave HBO Max soon. I still want to watch the new NBC show Debris soon. I have decided Ginny & Georgia on Netflix will be the next show I watch alone. I’m currently reading We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry.

The podcast below is another not connected to a current post. I played with adding music and did an episode about finding new bands via my love for Bowling for Soup.

Edit – apparently you can only listen to the episode below in the app and this only plays the terrible recording I made about using anchor. Oops.

I Watch TV So You Don’t Have To: A Look Back at Greek

Greek aired on ABC Family(now Freeform) from 2007-2011. I was not the target audience, but I watched from the beginning to end. Over the past few months things kept coming up that reminded me of the show. It is available on Hulu so I spent the last month or so watching the entire series again. Here are my thoughts.

The premise: Casey Cartwright is a popular sorority girl in ZBZ, the top sorority on campus. Her little brother Rusty, a polymer science major, is now a freshman at the same school. Her hopes of keeping their lives separate on campus are spoiled when he decides to join a fraternity. Casey is dating Evan Chambers, the wealthy pledge chair of the top fraternity, Omega Chi. Her ex is Cappie, the slacker president of the party frat, Kappa Tau. Cappie and Evan are former roommates who now hate each other. Other main characters are Casey’s roommate Ashleigh, Rusty’s roommate Dale, Rusty’s new friend Calvin, new ZBZ pledge Rebecca and ZBZ president Frannie.

The series mainly revolves around events in the Greek system. Rusty pledges Kappa Tau. Calvin pledges Omega Chi. Dale hates the Greek system. Rusty has to figure out how to balance school and Greek life. Rusty and Calvin struggle to not let the rivalry between their frats affect their friendship. Casey deals with relationship issues. On the surface it doesn’t sound like much, but it has depth.

Dale starts out as a guy who hangs a Confederate flag in his room and believes his church’s beliefs are the only way to live. He goes through a crisis of faith, declares himself an atheist and then finds his way back to his faith. At the same time, he becomes friends with Calvin, a gay, black man and by the end is coming to Calvin to ask him to counsel a kid from his church to help him come out. He could have been a comic relief/villain but they went much deeper.

Calvin struggle with telling his Omega Chi brothers he is gay. He’s out at home, but doesn’t want to be labeled as the gay guy at school. The Omega Chi’s are also not the most enlightened people on campus.

Rusty and Evan get in a fight after Rusty catches him cheating on Casey with Rebecca. The feud lasts for almost the entire series.

Cappie struggles with the idea of eventually leaving school. He’s happy at Kappa Tau and sees no reason to ever leave.

The show works best when the characters intermingle. Dale eventually ends up working at ZBZ. Calvin and Ashleigh become friends early on. Rusty and Ashleigh bond after taking a class together. Cappie and Dale become odd friends. Calvin and Dale become friends. It is very much an ensemble show. Casey and Rusty are technically the main characters, but the rest of the circle is much more interesting.

It’s a good way to spend an hour here and there. You grow to care about the characters enough to feel sad when they part ways in the series finale.

If you need a new show that is wrapped and ready to binge give it a shot.

I Need a Social Media Break

I spend a lot of time on social media. Part of it is an effort to get people to read my blog or listen to the Anchor stuff I’ve recorded. Part of is is checking certain Twitter feeds for specific news. A lot of it is habit and possibly addiction. I’ve always spent a lot of time on social media. When I worked in the jail I worked alone. I used social media on breaks to stay connected to the world outside of jail. When I started working at the public library it was something to do when I didn’t have any customers. I spent some time toward the end of my time at the library creating social media posts for the library’s Facebook and Twitter page. It has been a consistent part of my life for years. Now that I am home all day, picking up my iPad to look at Facebook or Twitter when I hit a snag with writing is even easier. I also tend to pick up my phone or iPad way to much at night when I am watching TV. My need of a break, though, is less to do with that and more to do with how it can affect my mood because of what is there.

My Facebook feed has become more suggested post and posts from pages I’ve liked and less posts from friends and family. I can probably fix part of this by unfollowing some pages.

When I do see posts from actual people I see more arguments about politics, Mr. Potato Head, Dr Seuss, etc. and less pictures of their families or less antagonistic posts. I might be guilty of this as well.

People will comment on posts that have nothing to do with politics with political comments.

People unfriend people for political reasons.

Twitter has people on both sides desperately trying to justify the bad things their “side” has done. Yesterday I saw people still saying they needed more information before they decided that Cuomo is truly an asshole. We had four years of people justifying Trump’s actions.

I still look at the Covid numbers each evening on Twitter. No matter how good the report is the replies are full of people declaring the next wave is here are we are all going to die.

Instagram seems to be the only social media that doesn’t annoy me these days.

Will I take a break? Probably not. I will try to unlike pages on Facebook. Maybe hide some people who only post about politics. I will work on making my Twitter feed more pleasant. I will stop reading comments. I will try to break the habit of checking it as much as I do. The nice weather will help. I can leave my electronics inside when I go outside to read.

I need a break but I doubt I will take one.

On the Roller Coaster

I feel like I started the week out on a high. Most of my therapy session Monday was focused on my successes from the week.

I submitted work to a place that was not my own blog. I expect nothing from it, but it was a step.

I started my volunteer doing weekly deliveries for a church program.

I’m doing yoga in the mornings.

I worked up the courage to record my own voice on the new blog to podcast thing.

The rain is gone. It’s nice and sunny this morning. It will be relatively warm this afternoon. I will be able to sit on the porch to read. I can take the dog for a walk in just a sweatshirt(and pants). There’s good news on the vaccine front(though left to my governor and county exec I will still be lucky to be vaccinated by Christmas).

So much good. Nothing bad of note has happened. Yet, I woke up this morning in a funk. I should be used to this. The reason I started therapy is my anxiety and depression. Sometimes I can pinpoint the cause. Sometimes it’s just there. Some of the possible reasons for the down mood?

The high of the recording the first bit for the podcast turns into the low of struggling with recording yesterday and the low quality of the finished work. You can listen below. As a “helpful” commenter pointed out after my first one, speaking isn’t for everyone. Thing is, though, I have emceed work training events in front of hundreds of people. I’ve presented at conferences. I know speaking is something I can do. Recording is the issue. Also, the lack of an audience. I will give it a few more tries and then decide if I continue.

The high of the writing submission turns into the low of being stuck when it comes to the book. Another spot where I start thinking maybe it’s not something I can actually do. I will never make money from writing so why keep pretending?

The high of the vaccine news and seeing posts from friends who are getting the vaccine turns into the low of knowing that so many people I know will be vaccinated and I will still ne sitting at home waiting months for my turn.

I should have expected this. I think the fact that I got teary watching the series finale of Greek(a show I had watched before) should have given me a hint that my emotional state was fragile.

It will be easy for me to sit and dwell on the lows and get even lower today. I will do my best to not dwell. Maybe today is a day to go get the free drink I’ve earned at Dunkn or use my Starbucks gift card from Christmas.

And now the link to where you can experience my dreadful recording from yesterday.

Words and My Weird Brain

The Golden Globes were this weekend. My memories reminded me of something I posted during the red carpet phase of an award show. This reminded me of a variety of phrases that can be taken a different way than they are intended. Here are a few starting with the red carpet question:

Who are you wearing? This makes me think of Silence of the Lambs and Buffalo Bill removing his victims skin. Who am I wearing? The last person who asked me a stupid question.

We had a group who used the meeting room at the library called the baby wearers. I thought – Baby wearer? How much pelt can you possibly get from a baby? You can maybe make a small hat. Or maybe they are combining the babies to make a nice coat? I’m just shocked we let them do it in the library.

She has the body of a 20 year old. So do I. It’s in a freezer in my basement.

He has his father’s eyes I have my father’s eyes. They’re in a jar next to the freezer.

Do you have Native American blood? Yes. It’s in a vial I wear around my neck.

My pastor once told us to go out and touch the community. I used to do that. The police told me to stop.

I was at a professional conference. The conference had a code of conduct. In an awards ceremony they said the recipient of the award touched everyone in the room I said “I’m pretty sure that goes against the conference code of conduct”

Did you study abroad in college? No. I never could find one who would let me.

I keep getting emails suggesting I follow a Tumblr. I did that once. I’m no longer allowed at gymnastics competitions.

The next few I posted before, but I will add here rather than a link to that post.

My wife – Is there a Tuesday Morning in Annapolis? Me – Yes, Once a week.

At work after helping someone with the copier – If you can’t figure out how to use a photocopier you shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce.

When I was a kid my mom would says as she was leaving the house “If anyone calls, I will be at the grocery store” and I would say “And where will you be if no one calls?”

And I will end with a personal favorite – When I was a kid smoking crack meant you were standing too close to the fireplace.

Do you have any to add?

A Quick Podcast Note

I have done my first recording of my own voice. It is way out of my comfort zone. I did not write a script.I just hit record and started rambling. Here is the link. Let me know what you think I should do with it moving forward.

Random episodes that don’t really connect to the blog?

Recordings connected to a blog post?

Admit that this one is terrible and I should burn it all down?

Moving forward, if I record I will add it to the bottom of the next morning’s post.

Tater’s February 2021 in Books

It is March 1. That means it is time for my monthly review of what I read last month. Again, in order of read, not enjoyment

1. Broken by Jenny Lawson – I got this one from a Goodreads contest. I didn’t even know I won. The book just arrived on my porch one day. That was a pleasant surprise. As with her other books, she discusses her battle with depression and anxiety. She explores her experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation. She talks about her frustration with her insurance company. Very tough subjects, but done in a way that makes you laugh while also feeling her pain. Lawson is one of the favorite authors and I enjoyed new words from her. I would recommend all of her books. You can read her blog here.

2. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi – This is a very short book about two siblings with extraordinary power. It starts when Ella is a child and Kev is born and takes us through their adulthood when Kev is incarcerated and then out on parole. Ella visits him both in person and supernaturally and shows him a possible future of a revolution that burns down the new fascist society. The book definitely kept me reading. It was a little hard to follow as it had time jumps and I had a hard time figuring out how much time had passed and how old they were through a good portion of the book. I would recommend it, though.

3/ Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson – A book in verse about the son of an NFL player dealing with how CTE has changed his dad. His dad is a star tight end who has suffered multiple concussions. His headaches get so bad he has to stop playing while the doctors try to figure out what is causing the headaches, mood changes, and memory loss. It takes place before CTE was a known result of the constant head injuries football players deal with. Woodson is a very good author and this is another very good one from her. I recommend you read anything she has written.

4. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour – Darren lives in Bed-Stuy. He was valedictorian at his high school but opted not to go to college. He is working at a Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building and has no desire for anything different. This all changes when a encounter with Rhett Daniels, the CEO of New York’s hottest tech startup results in Darren being offered a spot on his elite sales team. He is given the nickname Buck by the racist head of sales. As he gets more immersed with Rhett and makes more money he changes and is estranged from his mom and his friends in Bed-Stuy. A tragedy at home and a scandal at work sets ups a chain of events that changes everything. I loved this book. It is compelling. It is funny. It is well written. It has great characters This could easily end up being the book I most recommend this year.

5. Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman – This is the latest in the Alex Delaware series. In this one, Milo is asked to take on a very cold case when a wealthy woman pulls strings to get it reopened. It is the case of a woman found with a bullet in her head in a car crashed off the hills on Mulholland Drive. It seems like an unsolvable case, but as they investigate they find too many coincidences and discover someone is trying to stop the investigation. I love the Delaware novels and this one is as good as the rest. Milo and Alex are a good investigative duo. Old favorites pop up in supporting roles. The mystery is a good one. I would recommend it, but I’m also a “read in order” guy, so go start from the beginning of the series.

6. Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth – This was one of the award winners from the ALA Youth Media Awards. It is a memoir in verse. Gansworth tells the story of his life growing up on the Tuscarora reservation in New York. He also tells a little about his grandparents being sent to boarding school as kids to learn to be more like white people. I really wanted to like this more Kind of like I really wanted to like the one fiction book of his I read more than I did. He has a moving story, but unlike other books in verse, this one just didn’t draw me in at all. I was bored a lot. I probably should have given up on it and moved on to something that I found more appealing. I’m not sure what the people who gave it a Printz Honor Award saw in it.

7. This is my Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio – Jocelyn Wu is a junior in high school. Her parents own a Chinese restaurant in Utica. When her dad says they might need to move back to NYC so he can work for family there she tries to help bring the restaurant to modern times to save it. Will Domenici is a junior at the local private school who wants to find a paying summer internship. Jocelyn hires him to help with marketing the restaurant. They, of course, fall in love. It is complicated by Jos’s parents’ prejudice, Will’s anxiety and Jos’s possible depression. I always like a good YA romance and this one was very good, if maybe a tad bit too long. It was nice to have diverse characters – Will’s mom is Nigerian, the Wu’s are Chinese, Jos’s best friend is Indian-American – and characters dealing realistically with mental illness. I would recommend.

8. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee – This is an account of a group of young second-generation Japanese American citizens in San Francisco whose lives are changed by the mass US incarcerations of World War II. The story is told through the eyes of different teens as were move from the rumors of “evacuation” after Pearl Harbor into the incarceration camps. We follow their lives in the camps. We follow two of them to the front lines of the war as they fight to prove their loyalty to the country. We follow some families to a more secure camp after they refuse to say yes to a loyalty contract. We eventually follow them back to San Francisco after the war. It took me a couple of days to get into the book. It was an abrupt change from the romance book from before. My daughter loved it, so I kept reading. Eventually, I got to the point where I couldn’t put the book down. I was completely invested in their lives and wanted to follow them to better times. I would highly recommend this one.

What’s Good in Tater Town 2/28/21

I can’t believe it’s the last day of February already. I’m looking forward to the nice spring weather. Here’s the good from last week.

  1. Dinner with both kids again Sunday night.
  2. My daughter stayed home for the week since her school was on a one week Covid sequester.
  3. Her being home meant less alone time in the afternoons.
  4. I got the nerve to submit writing to something other than my blog Monday. It wasn’t great writing and I have no expectations, but it was a big step for me.
  5. Driving my daughter to campus for her regular required Covid test got me out of the house Tuesday.
  6. Warm enough weather for me to read on the front porch a little.
  7. Out of the house again Thursday for my first weekly shift delivering food boxes for my church.
  8. More free birthday food. This time Red Robin burgers.
  9. This actually should have been in another week, but my son was accepted to grad school at University of Maryland.

That’s all I can remember from this week. Here comes March.

A Quick Note – Possible Podcast

The homepage of WordPress recently had a link to connect my blog to a podcast on Anchor. I’ve played around with the tool that converts a post to audio so I technically have two episodes published on a podcast. I’m trying to get the nerve to actually record something soon even if it is just an introduction to me and my blog. Here’s the link.

The World’s Common Tater

The Day the Russian Disappeared

One of the pre-pandemic perks of my wife’s job was being the US representative at an international conference. Each year she gets to go to a different host country for a meeting on public debt. I have been fortunate to be able to travel with her on all but the first trip. I ranked the host locations here. During most of the trips, I have been invited to the welcoming cocktail party and the official dinner. All family members are invited to the social program at the end of the week. After several years of attending the conference we have developed a friendship(as much of one you can have with people you see once a year) with several of the attendees. The people we talk to the most are the representatives from Georgia and Russia. My last conversation at the conference in 201 was a discussion of Grey’s Anatomy with one of the Russian officials. Our current Russian friends are not the original representatives from the country. My first Russian friend vanished one day.

The first trip we took with her was to Helsinki. It was the only time both of our kids were able to travel with us. Finland was a great host. The city was nice and walkable. We had a great time. I felt very out of place when I attended the official dinner. It was my first time with the group and I was one of the only outsiders at the dinner. Luckily, I was seated next to a man from Russia who was close to me age and was very interested in the American presidential election that was happening at the time. He asked for my thoughts on the election . We talked about the debates. He was surprised when I said that the majority of voters decide who they will vote for before the debates and only a handful of undecideds are swayed by them, Maybe I shouldn’t admit that I discussed US elections with a Russian government official.

At the end of the conference there is always a social program. In Finland it was a bus trip out to several small towns outside of Helsinki. Each stop featured some sort of food and the last stop was at a mansion for more food and wine. It was a very good day. My Russian friend was seated on the bus in front of me. I remember noticing his phone was very cracked when he was texting on the bus. After one of the stops, he did not board the bus. He was absent for the rest of the trip. I never saw him get in another car or anything. He was just gone. My logical wife says he probably had an early flight and had to take a car back to the city to get to the airport. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers. I decided he used the trip as a chance to defect and he disappeared to start a new life in Finland.

This trip was in September. The next conference was in May in Santiago, Chile. Most of the participants were the same. It was only 8 months since the last conference, Not a lot of time for turnover in who was representing the countries. The one big change I noticed? A new person representing Russia. My disappearing friend was not in attendance. I choose to believe that this is proof that his disappearance was not due to an early flight. He was no longer representing Russia because he was living his new life somewhere in Finland. So far, he is the only person who has mysteriously disappeared on one of the trips.