Tag: Week in Review (Page 1 of 2)

Week in review (Feb 3, 2015)

As an experiment, I’m doing away with the bullet points, even though they’re like a security blanket for me. “Oh, this is just a list, not a real blog post.” But what does that even mean, lol? What’s a fake blog post? And why do I have to take everything so seriously?


Like Jane the VirginTransparent jumped to the forefront of my attention after its Golden Globes wins. I binge-watched all ten episodes on Sat, Jan 24, thanks to Amazon making them free to stream for that day. (Normally the series is only available to Amazon Prime members.) And just so you know that I’m not a total slug: I was cleaning while I watched.

Transparent felt like an HBO show to me — a bit like Girls, actually — in the sense that it’s well-written, well-acted, and well-produced, but not something that would probably appeal to the mainstream. Not because the topic is niche (though I suppose some would argue that it is…) but rather because the tone of the show just isn’t easy to swallow. It’s a dark comedy (meaning there’s humor, but not the kind that makes you laugh out loud) starring a fairly “unlikable” family. They’re all messed up and abrasive, and they make a lot of bad decisions.

That said, you do sympathize with them, because they love each other, and they’re doing the best they can. The acting is excellent, and there’s interesting storytelling at work too. Flashbacks that parallel the present storyline, or enhance it with revelations. Unreliable narration, or arguably magical realism, depending on your interpretation. Also, the sets are kind of old-timey and gorgeous.

For the most part I do enjoy the show, but I wish there were at least a couple well-adjusted characters. Partly because it would just be a nice contrast, but mostly because I worry about the (false) implication that a trans person can’t have a “normal” family. That by being trans — even (or especially) when she was closeted — Maura irrevocably damaged the people who she loves. I know that isn’t what Transparent is trying to say, but I fear that (so far) the show is sort of saying it anyway.

Krohn Conservatory

On the same day that I was streaming Transparent, an old friend came into town, so I took a break and we went to see the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired garden show at Krohn Conservatory. It was small, but smelled amazing. Wasn’t too bad to look at, either.

Small but beautiful exhibit at Krohn Conservatory, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

A photo posted by Kristan (@kristanhoffman) on

Note to self: Get a plant. Something green and alive to freshen up your home.

MV5BMTI0NjEwNDgwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTI1NTA3._V1_SX640_SY720_Mona Lisa Smile

Believe it or not, I’ve never seen Dead Poets Society, but I know the gist of it, and I’m pretty sure Mona Lisa Smile is the female version. Forward-thinking teacher inspires brilliant but hesitant young minds? Check!

Personally, I very much enjoyed the movie and its overtly feminist messaging. I also liked the entire cast, including the somewhat divisive Julia Roberts. (You either think she’s gorgeous or has a toothy horse face. I am in the former group.)

There aren’t any surprises in this movie, but that’s okay. It’s about character. My favorite moment, hands down, is when a heartbroken Betty (Kirsten Dunst) viciously lashes out at Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) for being a slut with daddy issues, and Giselle just gathers her screaming, crying friend into her arms, and they hold each other.


Usually Andy and I just play flag football from Sep to Nov, but this year the team wanted to try a few other sports in addition. Right now it’s broomball, which is like hockey without skates. And “brooms” instead of sticks. And a ball instead of a puck.

orange iguanas broomball

Yeah, it’s weird. But also surprisingly fun!

Writer Unboxed & the Super Bowl

Speaking of sports… Since my latest Writer Unboxed post fell on Super Bowl Sunday, I decided to spotlight 3 football players and share what I’ve learned from them about pursuing dreams.

“Talent, Perseverance, and Hard Work: Lessons on Writing from Football”

Fred Jackson may never end up in the Hall of Fame, but he’s got heart and soul, and he’s the reason I fell in love with football again. Although the odds of him making it to the NFL seemed grim, he had faith in himself, and passion for the sport. He is living his dream because he looks at every step of the process as an opportunity to improve and impress.

That’s the kind of writer I want to be.

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Week in review (Jan 13, 2015)

  • Just before 2014 ended, I snuck in another Just Between Us column for my dad’s newspapers. “My Neighborhood, My Oasis” is a quiet piece. An attempt to grow my skill set and write about small, ordinary things in interesting ways.
  • Poster-art-for-The-Imitation-Game_event_mainWatching the Golden Globes on Sunday night reminded me of just how many Best Picture contenders I haven’t seen. Basically all of them. Except The Imitation Game. I saw that one a couple weekends ago. It was Cumberbatch, so yeah, it was good. More importantly, it put a spotlight on Alan Turing and his important code-breaking work during World War II. Between that, and more or less inventing computers, Turing may literally be the reason we are all sitting here, living the way we do.
  • Back to the Golden Globes (briefly), I thought Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s opening monologue was pretty good, but I was disappointed by how little of them we got throughout the rest of the night.
  • baby_mamaI guess my consolation is that I just saw Baby Mama, their first movie together. (They are apparently coming out with a second, unrelated movie soon.) Baby Mama is kind of goofy and predictable, but it was really fun to watch the two of them play off one another — and to observe the differences in their comedy styles, which are less obvious when they’re not directly juxtaposed. For example, Tina is very sarcastic and geeky, while Amy is more exaggerated and slapstick. (The scene where Tina is trying to get Amy to swallow an enormous pre-natal vitamin was probably my favorite part.)
  • For more Tina and Amy love, check out this piece on their friendship over the years.
  • I’m trying out a couple new TV shows…

  • Skulduggery_Pleasant_book_coverLast but not least, I’m thinking this might be the year that I finally become an audiobook convert. Mostly because I like to read while I walk Riley, and it’s much easier to pop in my earbuds and press Play than it is to hold a book and flip pages while also carrying a leash. Unfortunately, a bad narrator can really ruin a story for me. So if you know of any good ones (narrators or audiobooks), please let me know! My recommendation for you is Skulduggery Pleasant, written by Derek Landy and read by Rupert Degas. It’s a bit Harry Potter-ish, in all the best ways. (British humor; our world but with magic; coming-of-age adventure; etc.) The only problem is that it’s the first in a series of 9 books, and only the first 3 were published in the US. So I’m not quite sure how I’m going to read (or listen to) the rest…

As a side note, doing these weekly reviews is making me realize that I consume a lot of art and entertainment. Books, music, movies, television, articles, blogs. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing… but it could be? I dunno. Just an observation for now. Further contemplation is necessary before coming to a conclusion.

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Week in review (Dec 14, 2014)


  • I actually bought 1989 like three weeks ago, but I forgot to include it in a Week in Review post at that time. Whatever. It takes me a while to figure out how I feel about songs/albums anyway. At this point — after many, many listens — I can safely say that 1989 is pretty good and a lot of fun. I really admire Taylor’s artistic instincts, and her desire to push herself into new, unfamiliar territory. (That said, I think Red was the sweet spot for her, both lyrically and musically. I’d love to see her return to that style/sound someday.) The only 1989 songs that I don’t really care for are “How You Get the Girl” and “Wonderland.” My absolute favorite is “You Are In Love.” Taylor wrote it about the relationship between Jack Antonoff and Lena Dunham (who are her friends), and it’s just so stripped down and genuine — and reminds me of my relationship with Andy — that it hits me right in the feels every time.
  • I’m really into PT Serif right now. Yes, I am a font nerd. I’m also a pen nerd, and fonts are the computer equivalent of pens. I still remember doing my homework in high school with a rainbow of Pentel RSVP pens (.5 mm). There’s just something about a good writing instrument that makes you want to write more, and good fonts are the same way.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)

  • At long last, I got to read BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE, the third book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. Stiefvater’s writing is so magical — and not just because she writes fantasy. She has an amazing way with characters and setting and mood. The second book (THE DREAM THIEVES) is still my favorite in the series so far, but this one was great. I won’t say too much about it, for fear of spoilers, but I will say that I was moved to tears by the courtroom scene. More than anything, these books are about the bonds of friendship — one of my favorite themes.
  • Last but not least, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching Taiwan. I’m going back next year for the first time in over a decade, and I’m a mess of emotions about it. That’s probably a whole post on its own. For now I’ll just give a shoutout to two tools that I’m using to improve my (toddler-level) Mandarin:
    • Chinese Skill, an app modeled on Duolingo (which was started at Carnegie Mellon!)
    • “Love Myself or You,” a cute little Taiwanese drama about two chefs and a lot of misunderstandings (which I am watching via Drama Fever)


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Week in review (Dec 1, 2014)

These really make more sense on a Friday, Saturday, or even Sunday, but oh well. Also, if I’m going to keep doing this (which apparently I am) then I should probably date them so I don’t have a million posts with the same name…

  • Last weekend, Andy and I drove for 3 hours and didn’t even make it 100 miles. Thanks a lot, Ohio. We were prepared to encounter the whole #BuffaloSnow craziness, but not six different 18-wheelers skidding off I-71.
  • Once we finally got to Andy’s parents’ house, I realized that I forgot my laptop cord at home. A whole week without a computer? Liberating and traumatic at the same time.
  • Andy and I got firsthand experience with a newborn. The first few days were like, “Okay, this isn’t so hard.” The next few days were like, “OMG IT NEVER STOPS.”
  • Inspired by this woman’s amazing naptime photos of her son, Andy and I did this:

2014 11-24 aladdin scene

  • We also went to see a couple movies. Mockingjay Part 1 was another quality installment in the series, and not at all “boring” like some of the reviews made me fear it would be. Granted, I do think they’ve left a lot to be covered in the finale, but I guess that’s on purpose. (Side note: I wasn’t expecting the makeup/CGI effects that they used on… a certain someone. It looked just like Bella wasting away during her pregnancy in Breaking Dawn Part 1.)
  • I also saw Big Hero 6. For some reason I found it hard to suspend my disbelief during the battle scenes — yes, even though it was a children’s animated movie — but I really, really enjoyed the diversity of the cast. (Tadashi was one hot cartoon, yo.) Also, I now want to fist bump like Baymax all the time. (It’s even better with the sound effect, hehe.)

  • Last but not least, I went with Andy’s family to pick out a live Christmas tree. It was my first time. I like how the trees smell.
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Week in review (Nov 23, 2014)

  • Quick Longmire update: Netflix picked it up for a 4th season, yay!
  • On Sunday, I posted over at Writer Unboxed about the two things that I’ve been doing recently in order to maintain a healthy mindset towards writing: “Rising Expectations, Daily Pages, and Having Fun.”
  • once musical logoAs part of our attempts to become more cultured, we went to see the musical Once. I loved how minimal the set and script were, allowing the music to really be the focus. I’ve loved the song “Falling Slowly” ever since I heard it on the Oscars years ago, but it was a special treat to hear it live.
  • Andy’s sister had her baby! Now we can all spoil this little jellybean rotten.
  • We also saw Interstellar, which was intricate and imaginative even beyond my expectations. There were a few developments that I predicted, but still plenty that took me by surprise. Most of all, I loved the theme of love being the one thing we humans perceive/experience that transcends time and space. (That said, I probably would have changed the ending a bit.)
  • And oh yeah, it was my birthday.

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