Friday, December 5, 2014

What's Making Me Happy: December 5

We had such a nice Thanksgiving, with two of my cousins and their spouses joining my parents and in-laws, my brother and his family, and my own four-family. My cousin and his wife announced they will be adding to the family ("We're hoping it's a pony," said my cousin-in-law, patting her round tummy), which was excellent and welcome news. We all caught up, chilled out, ate dinosaur—aka "turkey"—and generally enjoyed ourselves.

Yes: living where we do, "enjoying ourselves" involves hiking as much or more than football, but lookie! So pretty. It's worth it.

As for the recommendation part of WMMH, I have a few things. If you have not already discovered the Serial podcast, that's my first pushy thing. You gotta. It's so good. A spinoff of the beloved This American Life podcast, Serial follows (so far) the story of Adnan Syed, imprisoned in 2000 for the murder of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend. Lee and Syed were both in high school when the murder occurred. It's a true story, a fascinating look under the rug of the American legal system, and a gripping whodunit. Following that hyperlink should get you started, but if you have iTunes you can also find it there. I also recommend the Beyond Pod podcast player for those with smartphones.

Once you are thoroughly hooked by Serial, you can go meta and find the podcasts-about-the-podcast. Our favorite so far is Slate's Spoiler Special. Slate does "spoiler specials" on all sorts of things, mostly movies, but since Serial has gone viral they've dedicated a specific discussion to each Serial episode. They analyze and gripe and speculate and basically stand in for you and all your besties having an awesome chat-debate over coffee or wine.

We have also fallen in love with Transparent, a fantastic show on Amazon Prime about a 70-year-old parent who has come out as transgender. Jeffrey Tambor plays Maura, who was assigned a male gender at birth and has just gathered up the courage to embody her female identity at this late stage in life. Her three adult children react variably to her announcement, and season one (the only season so far) deals primarily with this first stage: come out, cope as best you can with repercussions. It's done with utter compassion. It's funny but Maura is never the object of a joke. It's too explicit to watch with young kids, but if you can stand the awkwardness of watching sex scenes with your family, I highly recommend watching it with your teenagers (or, suggest they watch it on their own and discuss it with you later). It's brought up loads of great discussions in our family.

" whole life, I've been dressing up like a man.... This is me."
We're also entranced with Black Mirror, a British sci-fi show which just became available on Netflix. It's like the Twilight Zone, in that each episode is a self-contained story; there is no through-line. The continuity comes from theme, which might best be described as "techno-angst." This show is also not for the faint of heart or for the li'l kiddies. If you want something for the whole fam to watch comfortably, we adore Brooklyn 99. It's a very funny, very nice cop comedy.

Bookwise, I am so excited that Best of 2014 lists are coming out now. I love "best of" lists; it's so wonderful to browse through total excellence and pick the most excellent of all lovely things. I feel fairly certain that for 2014 novels, The Bone Clocks and The Paying Guests will make my own best-of list, and both books are on many, many other lists as well. They are both British, and both incredibly-written literary page-turners, but that's about all they have in common.

Whew! That's a lot of recommendations. I haven't even got to my best-of-music list yet ... I'll save that for next week. In the meantime—happy weekend, everyone!


  1. Are you gonna post your own best-of-2014 list to the blog? That'd be cool. And if you're inspired, you oughta do it across the board: books, films and TV. That'd be a great post coming from you!

    Congrats to your fam on the pony. ;)

    1. That's a great idea! I was going to do a end-of-year version of the Cephalopod book review, but I should make a best-of music list, too. I'd do a movie list but I don't see enough movies in the theater. Maybe TV shows, though.

  2. Your cousin's comment about hoping they have a pony reminds me of my first pregnancy. My little cousin said he'd like me to "have a baby horse, if it wouldn't be too much trouble.' Afterwards, I teased him that it was his fault I (who was a little bit of a thing at the time) had a whopping ten-pounder with a head the size of a watermelon... (Darned near, anyhow!)

    Thanks for your recommendation of "The Bone Clocks" and "The Paying Guests." I'll be sure to check them both out.

    1. "If it isn't too much trouble." Oh my gosh, that is adorable! Too funny how it turned out to be semi-predictive. :)

  3. Glad you had good times. Drew, Pam and I visited Tent Rocks last Saturday. My first time ever. So cool and fun imagining 20 active volcanoes in that area all in the same general time.

    1. How funny that we were there nearly on the same day! Friday was *nuts,* I've never seen traffic like that at Tent Rocks. Hope Saturday was a little calmer.


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