Monthly Archives: February 2021

Review: Is This Anything by Jerry Seinfeld

Is This Anything?In his introduction to Is This Anything?, Jerry Seinfeld tells us that question is what comedians ask each other when trying out new material.

Given that this is a collection of five decades of Seinfeld’s material, it’s safe to assume that this book is something.

As a fan of Seinfeld, largely thanks to his classic sit-com, there are large chunks of the material included in the sections for the ’70s through the ’90’s that I could recite from my multiple viewings of Seinfeld. These portions of the book are like a warm security blanket and I may have smiled a bit more, simply hearing Seinfeld do these bits in my head.

Since he retired all of his routines after Seinfeld came to a close (I imagine it would be easy for him to sell out arenas just to hear him do the familiar bits in person), Seinfeld has been building up his act again with new material. That makes up the final third of this book and it was what caught my interest the most this time around. Seinfeld’s observational humor is still fully intact, but seeing him observe on marriage, kids, and growing up was a lot of fun. It also made me wish that I could see Seinfeld up on stage doing these bits, instead of just reading them on the printed page. (I did dabble with the audiobook but it felt a bit off for him to do his routine without an audience laughing. I don’t necessarily think a laugh track is essential, but hearing the swells of laughter in the crowd is something I missed).

In short, if you’re a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, this one is a no-brainer. Pick it up, read it, enjoy it and then dust off your Seinfeld DVDs for one more journey through the classic sitcom. If you’re not a fan, I’m not sure there’s as much for you here — unless you want to watch Seinfeld “evolve” over the decades in the types of bits he does (I did notice a lot of his bits now are longer than they were when he started out). There are a few introductions in which Seinfeld talks about humor, comedy, and his relationship with it. I did find myself wishing we’d got a bit more of his self-reflection in the book.

And if you want to know if he’s included your favorite bit, there’s a handy index in the back. All-in-all, not a bad thing.

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, On A Very Special Episode…

AScreen-Shot-2021-02-05-at-8.14.14-AMs much as I like it when a new show drops all of its episodes on a certain day, I’ve got to admit there’s still part of me that prefers the weekly episode model being used by WandaVision. Not only does it give time for the ramifications of huge events to sink in, but it also gives the audience time to speculate and built anticipation for the next episode.

Because let’s face it — after this installment, I doubt I will wait long after episode six drops to watch it. (I’m not going to do something crazy like set an alarm for 3 a.m., mind you. But it’s not like other streaming shows where I figure I’m not as devoted or devious as some watchers who want to watch it all ASAP so they can be the first to SPOIL everything.)

But before we get to the huge reveal that ends the episode, I’ve got a few other questions and thoughts. Continue reading

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An Open Letter to J.K. Rowling on Why I DNF Troubled Blood

Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike, #5)

Dear Ms. Rowling,

I’ve been a fan of yours since the earliest days of the Harry Potter franchise, reading everything you’ve written — yes, I even waded through all of The Casual Vacancy. And I appreciate that you want to write a more “adult” mystery series under a pen name. I’ve read and enjoyed each of the previous installments of the Cormoran Strike series, though I have to admit each one has come with diminishing interest. That could be that each volume in the series seems to have grown in length over time.

I’m not necessarily complaining about investing my time and attention into a longer mystery story. I’ve read everything Elizabeth George has written and loved just about every second of it — yes, even that one in the S&M club that a lot of fans tend to place low on the list of favorites.

But, I have to confess that when it comes to the latest Strike book, Troubled Blood, I’ve had a difficult time becoming and then staying invested. Like George’s books, I look forward to checking in on the latest developments in the lives of your detective protagonists. But, in between the checking in on my old friends, I’d like there to be some kind of mystery and/or investigation going on. And after two-hundred and fifty pages of this tome, I’m starting to feel like you forgot that crucial element of the mystery novel.

I get that Strike and Robyn are taking on a cold case and it’s not going to be nearly as exciting as following-up on a recently committed crime. But, hey, my guy Michael Connelly has turned his protagonist Harry Bosch into a cold-case investigator and I’ve been able to not only enjoy those books but also stay engaged with them. Honestly, there are only so many times I can hear the internal monologue from Strike or Robyn about being attracted to each other but not acting on it before I want to fling the book aside in frustration. (Not that this would be easy to do mind you because this thing weighs in 900 plus pages).

I know that you’ve taken a lot of heat over some of the elements of the mystery — and I’d love to say I saw what all the controversy was about and could form my own opinion. Certainly in the quarter of the novel I did read, I saw elements creeping in that bothered me a bit but, again, I couldn’t finish this one, so I can’t speak to whether the allegations are valid or not.

And to be honest, I was so underinvested in this one that I just couldn’t even bring myself to skim it to find out.

Part of me wants to know if and when Robyn and Strike will or should act on their simmering attraction to each other. But that wasn’t quite enough to continue to invest effort into a book that I found tedious and without a significant hook.

In fact, it makes me sort of feel like I may be done with this series unless the next installment shows evidence of better editing. And before you get started, let me also point out that Stephen King, one of the biggest selling writers in history, has repeatedly stated that his books got better when he found a publisher who wasn’t afraid to edit him.

Sincerely,
Michael

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, “We Interrupt This Program”

MEX2090_104_comp_v007_r709.00099148.0With “We Interrupt This Program,” WandaVision suddenly feels like an episode of Lost. After spending three episodes establishing the world of the series and introducing some head-scratching elements, “We Interrupt This Program” provides a few answers, but opens up a world of even larger questions.

So, we’ve found out that this isn’t some kind of experiment being run on Wanda, but is instead a reality she’s created in Westview. And apparently, she’s able to manipulate things beyond the wall — from police officers who forget that Westview exists despite standing in front the sign for it to altering the helicopter drone that passes through the barrier. It does raise an interesting question about if and when Wanda knew that Monica had invaded the universe she’s created. Yes, we find out the moment she realized last week (and we saw it again on-scree this week, only in widescreen this time), but how much did Wanda know before. It certainly seems as if Wanda is unaware of just how far she’s going in creating this elaborate sit-com fantasy for herself and dragging everyone in with her.

I find myself wondering just if and how the avatars in her world know and if they have any power to try and resist whatever it is she’s doing. Continue reading

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