Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Favorites of 2013

Favorites of 2013

So I don't really blog very often, because I just don't feel I need to.  But when it comes to Best of/ End of the Year lists, I feel like this is the only appropriate place to share them.

Favorite Books of 2013

This year I have read 65+ books.  Not as many as previous years, mostly because I spent my summer reading the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo which took a great deal of my time.  I read non fiction, fiction, children's books, comics.  Here are all my favorites in no particular order

I Am Malala
A remarkable book about a remarkable young girl.  It should be required reading in school.  

Blood Song
A tremendous work of fantasy.   On par with Rothfuss, Lynch and the like, it is engaging without being overly dark for dark's sake.  A brilliant new talent.

The most realistic depiction of New Adulthood that I have ever read.  Funny, warm, awkward.  Brilliant

My favorite comic of the year.  My favorite comic of all time.  Matt Fraction is just so brilliant with his writing and Aja just knocks it out of the park with his illustrations.  The comic book for people who have never read comics before.  The comic book for people who swore off "superheroes."  The comic for everyone.

 And the Mountains Echoed
Fantastic book about memory and loss from Hosseini.  Sweeping in its scope, but remaining intimate and small at the same time.

 The Black Count
Fascinating biography about a life forgotten by time.  Interesting discussion of race and culture.  As gripping as any adventure story, with an ending as tragic

 Ocean at the End of the Lane
Gaiman does it again.  Beautifully written, poetic, bizarre.  Love love love.

My second favorite comic.  Fantastic sci fi, great epic storytelling and gorgeous illustrations. 


Golem and the Jinni
Really stellar fantasy as well as remarkable look at 19th century American Jewry. Well executed writing, plotting and character development make this a real winner.

A different take on the superhero genre, a Young Adult book about a world where all super human characters are villains and the rest of the human population is subject to their whims.    Great world building in this one.

Favorite TV Shows of 2013

I watch a lot of TV.  A lot of it is crap.  There are a lot of shows I continue to watch despite their decline in quality, and other great shows I just haven't started to watch, but have been meaning to.  But this has been one of the best years ever of television.  The quality of most of these programs exceeds anything I've seen on the big screen.

Breaking Bad
One of the greatest shows of all time ended its run in the most spectacular way possible.  Tense, funny, thrilling, shocking, dark.  This show is just everything.  Gorgeously shot, the music is just spot on fantastic, marvelous acting all around.  It should win all the awards this year.  ALL. THE. AWARDS.   

I love this show so damn much.  When this show is on the air, I am just... happier.  Violent but so so funny, beautifully crafted details about Harlan County in general really make the setting a character in the show.  Patton Oswalt knocked it out of the park this year in his supporting role.  I can't wait for it to come back.

 Orange is the New Black
So fabulous to watch a show dominated by women.  Funny women, sad women, fat women, skinny women.  This show demonstrates that female characters can do so much more, can be so much more than the roles they are typically given.

This one was a total surprise.  I started watching thinking it would be a cheap Game of Thrones knock off or Xena-like syndicated fluff.  Instead I was rewarded with rich characters, beautifully shot episodes, and stories that really kept me engaged.

Game of Thrones
Having read the books, I was waiting for this season with much anticipation.  It certainly paid off in full.  The "Red Wedding" delivered, the acting was excellent, and the show moved the story along very well, covering a fair amount in such a dense book.  I particularly loved the Brianne/ Jaime scenes.  Really well done.

The best superhero show (live action) that has ever been on TV.  I think I can say that with no equivocation.  Those expecting light Smallville-esque frivolity are instead rewarded with interesting stories, some good character development (and some characters that could use some work, lets be honest ::cough:: Laurel ::cough::).  A show that proves that you can have fun while still going a little dark.

Favorite Movies of 2013

I have barely had a chance to get out of the movies this year.  I've rented a few, but I haven't seen any of the real award contenders at all.  Honestly I haven't even seen enough movies to make a list.  I liked Gravity.  I think Iron Man 3 was underrated.  Frozen was beautiful and This is the End was very very silly.  I fangirled the shit out of Thor: The Dark World. 


 Misc Favorites of 2013

Favorite Webcomic - Nimona
Sometimes light, sometimes very dark.  Noelle Stevenson really stretches what the medium can do

 Favorite Celebrity - Tom Hiddleston
This man can literally do no wrong.  He is perfect.  Just... too freaking perfect.  

This has been a really amazing year for me personally- I moved into my first house, I got to see my daughter grow into a real little person who can now use the potty all by herself, I got to visit Yosemite with my husband and see the stars on a perfectly clear night, I got to see my little brother graduate from college.  It has been a pretty stellar year. Bring on 2014

Monday, March 04, 2013



 Last week I listened to the Nerdist Podcast as frequently do, and Chris Hardwick was interviewing Neil Patrick Harris along with these two magicians I had never heard of, but who apparently had won all sorts of awards etc.  They were talking about their show "Nothing to Hide" at the Geffen Playhouse and their philosophy of magic etc.  I was enthralled.  I've been to the Magic Castle before and was incredibly impressed by the talent there, but what Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães, these two previously unknown magicians, were talking about was something different from what I experienced there, something more immersive.  I'd never heard of magic actually telling a story, of a magic show as a sort of play with a narrative or a vision.

On Thursday evening on my way home from work I finished the podcast.  That night I made a decision: I would see this magic show.  I found tickets online for the show Sunday, I talked to my husband to see if he was interested in attending so we could find a babysitter.  He wasn't.  I sort of half-assed asked people if they wanted to come with me, but truly, if I'm being honest with myself, I actually WANTED to go alone.  I can't really explain my motivations behind this.  Maybe it was the fact that I do so few things as a bonafide adult that I wanted to do it on my own.  Maybe I just needed a break from the real world for a while.  Or maybe, and I think this is probably the most likely, I wanted to experience this moment by myself.  DelGaudio and Guimaraes talk a lot about moments in the podcast interview.  They discourage cell phone video not simply because they don't want their act to go online without their consent or knowledge, but because the experiences we have, the moments we have, particularly in a magic show, are ones that cannot be recaptured.  I've never heard of magic being talked about with this wabi sabi connotation before.  I wanted to experience it.  I wanted an experience that I would have that no one else could share, that could be mine.

On Sunday I drove down to LA and attended the most spectacular and wonderful magic show I have ever seen in my life.  The tricks/ effects themselves were nothing flashy, nothing showboating or false.  The show was simply a demonstration in pure talent.  It was like watching a virtuoso pianist.  Surely anyone could, in theory, accomplish what they did just as surely as anyone could play cello like Yo Yo Ma.  It was artistry pure and simple.  DelGaudio and Guimarães were charming, witty, engaging as performers and a sheer delight.  They involved multiple members of the audience for many of the tricks, and the 100 person seated room felt small and intimate from where I sat in the third row.

I was selected for one of the hallmark pieces, which involved a Eng Bottle an "Impossible bottle" in which a pack of playing cards has been painstakingly crafted inside a glass jar, similar to how a ship in a bottle is assembled.  The whole back of the stage during the entire performance is filled with rows upon rows of these bottles.  After tossing a sock monkey into the audience and asking audience members to toss it again and again, eventually the adorable monkey landed in my lap.  There were some witty exchanges at which I became very giggly and nervous as I am wont to do on the occasion of being in the spotlight (though I was at my seat).  They asked me if there was anyone that I could call tomorrow, anyone without prior knowledge that I was attending the performance.  After a brief hesitation I said my Grandma Estelle (I had posted I was going to the show on Facebook, it actually took me a moment to figure out who didn't know I was going). I was instructed to call her and tell her I had a dream, a strange dream in which all that was about to occur had occured from the sock monkey to the chubby Bob's Big Boy impersonator and the Portuguese Muppet on stage.  Then I was asked to name a card.  Often times people pick common cards, the queen of hearts, the ace of spades, they explained.  I had the whole deck to choose from.  I picked the 2 of hearts.  I can't say why I picked the two of hearts.  Did they force me with subliminal suggestion or did the card just occur to me?  I don't have the slightest idea.  They made some sexual innuendo about picking that particular card with relation to my grandmother.  They teased and played and asked if I was certain that that was the particular card I wanted.  Then they asked me to pick an Eng Bottle on the wall.   Any one I wished.  I chose one on the third shelf on the second to last row, the fourth bottle over.  Again, was this forced?  Was there a particular reason I chose that bottle?  I don't know.  DelGaudio proceeded to pick up the bottle, bring it over to the small table that was in the middle of the stage, place the bottle in a plastic bag, smash the bottle with a hammer and pull out a deck of cards.  Guimarães opened the deck right in front of me.  He fanned the deck right in front of me, backs showing. One card was facing the opposite direction.  It was the 2 of hearts.  After a hearty applause he asked if that was enough to impress me.  Then he lifted the card and turned it around.  On the back of the card in thick sharpie was my grandmother's name "ESTELLE" written in bold letters.  I was dumbfounded.  Forcing decks, hiding cards in fruit or something, all that I've seen.  But when in gods name had someone had time to write in sharpie my grandmother's name?  I didn't write her name on the card so they couldn't have had it palmed the whole time.  No one ever left my sight, no hands were out of view.  Perhaps if it were something like a tear or a sticker it could have been done to the card covertly, but a name written in sharpie?

That is the only trick I will describe in detail.  They ran through many semi familiar card tricks with new twists. The entire thing was phenomenal.  Beautifully executed, charming, delightful.  Like watching Ricky Jay in his classic 52 assistants special.  A moment that I will never experience again.  That I can only capture in a single image.  A single word.