Saturday, July 22, 2017

Prop'n Go Slim

After a year or two of wanting a tablet holder, I decided to just get one.  I read a lot in the evening and worry about falling asleep and dropping my Kindle.  Also as I'm getting older, my hands are getting stiffer, and it is not as comfortable to hold a book for a long time.  I looked at a number of tablet pillows before deciding on the Prop'n Go Slim in black.  It has a flat plastic top with an adjustable stand in the center allowing for fourteen positions.  It takes a second to switch angles.  There's also two rubberized strips on either side of the stand to help keep one's tablet in place while shifting positions.  The bottom is memory foam with a silky covering.  It's soft. light weight, and doesn't hold heat.  I barely notice the pillow even after using it for a couple of hours.  I've also used it with a physical book (currently one about 2" thick).  I have to keep one hand on the book, unlike with a tablet, but it does make holding the book less fatiguing.  After having this for a week, I'm kicking myself for not ordering it sooner.  It is the perfect accessory for an avid reader.  And yes, I have fallen asleep with the pillow and my Kindle on my lap only to awaken to find everything perfectly in place.

2017 Garden Update

Despite the miserable heat, my garden's been doing well this year.  I lost about six plants which is about average.  I'm happy with the nice amount of color.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

June Mask Maven

My Mask Maven for June arrived this past week with the theme of Life's a Beach.
This one's a slight disappointment.  Urban Dollkiss, Adaline, and Mijin are all new brands.  I liked the It's Skin Mask that I tired before and the Berrisom Water Bomb Jelly mask look good.  There's an eye mask that might help next time I have a bad allergy attack in my eyes.  I disliked the Stayed Up Late mask from a previous set so I'm not sure about this one.  There are two sets of Point Pads which I doubt I'll use much.  My problem tends to be my entire face gets dry, not just small areas. So I'm only really interested in six of the nine this month.

New brands I tried last month included AM Piggy Head, Mizon, HIDDENcos, and Too Cool for School.  Piggy had an excellent fit.  Mizon was okay but didn't adhere well.   HIDDENcos was a latte mask that smelled yummy.  The Too Cool for School Egg Cream mask was the real star of the month--thick, creamy, with an excellent fit.  It had a nifty mesh backer that made it super easy to unfold.  I also tried the SNP Animal Tiger Warming Mask I'd gotten a while back.  It's an eye mask that has a gentle heat to it which was quite nice.


I can see the light at the end of the tunnel in my quest to read all of Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason, but despair had started to creep in.  Most of what I have left to read is only available in out of print paperbacks.  These can be hard to find at book sales since paperbacks are not designed to last for decades and those that do often have busted spines that are hard to read (success at book sales depends almost entirely on being able to easily read spines).  The internet makes it possible to buy old books, but shipping means they'll cost at least $4 which is $2 more than I want to pay for an old book.  Then yesterday I went to the Reading Book Bonanza sale and found this:
Aren't they lovely?  Plus the covers make for a fun game of guess the decade.  I'm excited for Fenced-in Woman there since I doubt the actual story will have anything to do with that most excellent cover.  Now I only have two books to track down to finish the series..

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Downward Dog

It's a live action sitcom about a talking dog on ABC.  Basically it was doomed to failure from the start.  The AV Club's been praising it since its debut, but it was only when the show was listed in their Best TV of 2017 so-far article which decried the show's cancellation that I decided to check it out.  All eight episodes are currently on Hulu.

Nan is the owner.  She works at a design firm creating a campaign for some store.  Her boss is a man-child who is fairly awful.  She's got an on-again-off-again boyfriend who she truly loves but is not sure she should be with since he lacks ambition and she worries he'll hold her back.  She's a perfectly normal woman fraught with insecurities and worries but still comes off as someone you'd like to be friends with.  Nan is portrayed by Allison Tolman who was so excellent in the first season of Fargo.  She reminds me a bit of Oliva Colman--average looking but welcome in any show she appears in (while I am opposed to having the next Doctor Who be a woman "because it's time", I'd love to see Colman in the role because she's that good).

Martin is the dog.  He's less a talking dog than a dog whose thoughts we can hear.  His thoughts are mostly about Nan.  He worries about their relationship--who's the dominant partner, why does Nan need to go play with others during the day, can Nan ever accept him as the trash loving animal he is.   I normally don't want to go into too much detail for risk of spoiling, but let me tell you a little about episode two.  Nan installs an automatic dog door which leads Martin to believe he has mental super powers.  After a great deal of thought, Martin decides he clearly should be the dominate partner in their relationship due to his powers.  Then the evil cat next door gets into the house and Nan has to save the situation at which point Martin realizes what a fool he has been since clearly Nan is the greatest being who ever existed.   He is clearly all dog in worshiping his human, but he also puts a lot of thought into who he is and what he wants.  Ned who plays Martin is an amazing actor.

The show is amazing.  I gave up even trying to read while watching it since it kept drawing my attention (I judge the quality of shows and books in part on which one is better able to capture my interest while I read and watch simultaneously).   The idea started as a web series and really it's a show better suited for cable or on-line.  Network TV is not really suited for quirky shows, especially ones with such an easily dismissed premise.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Recent Reads

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie.  The problem with having watched many of the Poirot TV episodes is a passing familiarity with the plots.  I kept trying to wedge this into being Appointment with Death due to its Middle Eastern archaeological setting.  I enjoyed it once I realized what book I was not reading. (Not sue what's up with the cover of this version since there is no plane.)

Deadpool, Vol. 1:  Secret Invasion by Daniel Way, Steve Dillon, and Paco Medina.  Another Prime Reading comic book.  I really liked this one since Deadpool is just as fun as I've heard and this had two complete plots in it.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1:  No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphonsa, and Jacob Wyatt.  A Muslim teen in New Jersey sneaks out to a party, gets caught in a fog, and suddenly can transform herself into the superhero Ms. Marvel.  A really great story about trying to fit in while staying true to your heritage and coping with change.

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher,  Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Davd Lopez.  This was the disappointment.  Captain Marvel goes into space to return an alien to her homeworld.  The story was a bit too Doctor Who like.  The bigger problem is the Captain isn't very distinctive.  The only distinctive thing is she takes her cat along for the trip.  Otherwise, pretty much any superhero could have been plugged into her role without it making much difference.

Smile and Drama by Raina Telgemeier.  Having enjoyed Sisters so much, I'm burning my way through Telgemeier's other books as quickly as the become available through the library.  Smile is set in the same world as Sisters and is largely about dental trauma and learning the true meaning of friendship.  Drama revolves around a Middle School musical and is largely about learning your abilities and teen romance.  The romance bit was the only thing that didn't work for me.  The characters were a bit too aware and emotionally mature for being Middle School characters.  I'd have found that part more believable had it been set in a high school.  Both books were pretty good but not as good as Sisters.

Fallout by Gwenda Bond.  Another Prime Reading book.  I was expecting a comic (not reading the description when I borrowed it) and found instead it's a YA novel.  Lois Lane has just moved to Metropolis and must stay out of trouble in her new school while working on a special teen project at the Daily Planet.  She and her friends have to solve the mystery of what is happening with a group of gamers at their school.  A nice tight story with interesting characters and situations.  I'm going to read more of Bond's work.

Fifty-one Tales by Lord Dunsany.  Fifty-one fantasy and horror stories that range from a paragraph to a couple pages long.  Dunsany had a real gift for creating complete stories in such short forms.  I'll be checking out more of his public domain works.

A Quiet Life in the Country by T. E. Kinsey.  One of the AV Club writers has raved about this series the past few weeks, and this book was sitting on my Kindle from when it was part of Prime Reading.  Lady Hardcastle and her maid Flo move to the country and promptly discover a dead boy.  A decent little mystery.  Flo narrates the book and as it goes on she drops tidbits about their past life that includes circuses, intrigue in foreign lands, and possible espionage.  I liked the characters and plot but ran into some trouble with the 1908 setting.  The local inspecting copper is way too open-minded and willing to allow Hardcastle and the maid to help his investigations.  I also found it difficult reconciling the close friendship between Flo and her lady with their mistress/servant relationship.  I can't quite put my finger on it but it just didn't gel for me the way other employee/boss mystery teams (like Archie Goodwin/Nero Wolfe or Della Street and Paul Drake/Perry Mason) do.  I'm thinking the problem is it's just not period appropriate.  I will probably read more in this series just to see where the author goes with it.

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor.  Ooo--#1 best seller in Amazon's Hispanic American Demographic Studies category (sometimes I find Amazon's need for  oddly specific best selling lists to be a bit amusing).  This memoir tells how Sotomayor came from a non-English speaking family in a tenement to rise to be a judge.  Well-written but for some reason I had a heck of a time getting through it (a case of the right book at the wrong time, probably).  The last quarter when she was practicing law was the most interesting part for me.  I had no idea she worked to protect the fashion houses from counterfeits.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Three Shows

The Handmaid's Tale is the it show of the season supposedly for it's relevance to present day events (a debatable point since in the show, everyone does nothing while society falls apart while current events show people will stand and fight against in justice).  I think I made it through six episodes.  The story and acting were decent but I could not waste any more time watching a show that looked like garbage.  Before I started watching I read an interview on Jezebel with the costume designer who talked about all the care that went into getting just the right colors and making little details in the costumes.  Then I started watching and was enraged on her behalf.  The show looks like mud.  The colors are incredibly muted.  Making things worse, the lighting is so bad I could barely tell what was going on in some scenes.  I've read comments about the show's striking visuals. but to me it looks like sludge so I stopped watching.  I also found it problematic that Elisabeth Moss has the lead as the oppressed handmaid and is therefore supposed to be a representation of resistance and Feminism.  Perhaps she has personally never experienced the negative aspects of Scientology, but the fact she is a proponent of a religion that has been shown time and again to be repressive while never denouncing it's bad practices bothers me.

Determined to make the most of the few months I have Showtime, I tired watching The Borgias.  The main draw was Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI.  As anyone who has watched Reversal of Fortune knows, Irons can do cunning and charming extremely well.  Instead of going that route, he chose to play Alexander as a tired old man.  The side characters failed to capture my interest, and there was a Muslim character was shown happily eating with his left hand (and even if eating with one's left hand is less offensive to Muslims than we in the West have been lead to believe, it is still a widely held idea).  So I gave up after about ten episodes.

Penny Dreadful is the only show I've tried lately that I felt like watching the whole way through.  Set in Victorian London, the show has a small band fighting evil in a universe where Frankenstein, Dracula, Dorian Gray, and others actually exist.  It's an interesting concept, and I guess is what Universal's new Dark Universe franchise aspires to be (had they actually made a monster film instead of standard Tom Cruise action film #200).  I freely admit it did not totally catch my attention and I lost track of a few plot threads, but overall the acting and story were quite good and the ending kicked butt.  I also think the producers of The Handmaid's Tale should watch this to see how to make a show dark and atmospheric while still retaining color and keeping it well lit.