Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mid-year book post

Although a little past mid-year, Facebook reminded me that on this day last year, I babbled about books in my blog. So here we go again.

So far, I've read 11 books toward my goal of 17:

A twelfth is not far behind: Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (Goodreads cheerfully informs me that I am 63% through the book).

Geography of the books stands out this year more than in past years. Six of the seven novels I've read this year have taken me abroad: Japan, Italy, Nigeria, England, and China (twice). The two books set in China complement each other nicely as Amy Tan shows us China from the early 20s up to World War II, and Mo Yan picks up from there and takes us to the present. Ferrante covers the 50s and early 60s in Italy, and both she and Murakami refer to WWII, but Kafka on the Shore takes place in the present day of the author (2005). Adichie's story spans roughly my lifetime and she travels between Nigeria and the US. Smith goes specifically to 1986 (from 2006). Lastly, Maguire takes us back to mid-19th century Oxford, just after Alice goes down the rabbit hole.

There are 13 authors and 1 illustrator for these 11 books, and of the 14 of them, exactly half are male and half are female. Born in the US and born abroad is also split down the middle. All except Strunk & White are living, and the oldest of the living is Ozawa at 81. The youngest is Doughty at 33, with West joining her in the younger-than-me club at 35. Maguire and Murakami are the only authors I'd read before. After Alice is my fourth by Maguire and Kafka on the Shore is my third by Murakami.

So far this year I've read no books published before 1989 (The Joy Luck Club), and none between 1990 (A Natural History of the Senses) and 2005 (Kafka on the Shore). I've read no books published this year, the newest book being Shrill (2016). Technically, The Elements of Style was published in 1918 (predating all but one of my grandparents), but the illustrated version I read is from 2007.

On a Memorial Day trip upstate with my friend Cricket, I bought My Brilliant Friend and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca (and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, which may also get read this year). I visited the now-sadly-shuttered Book Court in Brooklyn on their last day (New Year's Eve 2016) and bought The Joy Luck Club, Kafka on the Shore, and After Alice (along with Ishiguro's Noctures). My Goodreads review of A Natural History of the Senses shares the story of how I've owned that book for nearly 20 years, but I forgot I had it and bought it again at Book Barn of the Finger Lakes in Dryden, NY last year, so now I have two. A fellow Phi Sigma Pi alum told me about Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, which I finally ordered from Astoria Bookshop on the third consecutive time I visited and they didn't have it in stock. I borrowed Shrill and Americanah from friends (Courtney and Max, respectively, although I think Max's copy of Americanah belonged to someone else), and The Elements of Style, Remembrance of Things I Forgot, and Absolutely on Music were gifts (my brother-in-law, Álvaro, and my parents, respectively). 

I'm doing a very good job of reading the books I buy and receive as gifts, and not as good a job of reading from the pile I created at the beginning of last year, to which I've been adding since I took this picture.

With things looking pretty even male/female-wise and US/abroad-wise, I could spend the rest of the year catching up on non-fiction: there is a Mary Roach in the pile, a memoir, a few scary big books, and David Foster Wallace on my nightstand (I had a false start with him last year and the book's been sitting there ever since). David Rakoff is also on my nightstand from a time when I thought I was starting The Uncollected David Rakoff, so that would also fit the bill. After finishing Kafka on the Shore, I'll only be five away from my goal, and if I finish early, I might spend the balance of the year on a time-consuming project like Game of Thrones. It will be winter by then, after all (he says, not having any idea what "Winter is coming" means).

Oh, and how did I like them, you don't ask? My favorite for the year so far is After Alice. I just loved every minute of it. I also loved Shrill, The Elements of Style, and Yan and Tan. Although I enjoyed experiencing Naples through Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend was a drudgery, and the book I liked least.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

McDonald's as a treat for avoiding McDonald's

Walking home from the subway I decided I would have McDonald's for dinner, rather than trying to make myself something out of the dubious ingredients I had in my house. Then I remembered I had leftover Chinese sesame noodles and decided in favor of that meal I'd already paid for, instead of my original idea.

I left myself extra time for a late lunch on my way to a QUO concert, and my brain was trained on a McDonald's I would inevitably have to walk past. But walk past it I did as I envisioned the forthcoming hour of my life spent inside a fast food restaurant. I chose to spend the hour in Citizens of Chelsea where I had avocado toast and coffee, costing more than twice a McD's value meal but in the charming company of hipsters.

Having carried over my McDonald's craving for two meal opportunities now, I settled on McDonald's as my Penn Station treat before a trip into New Jersey. But when I got there, I realized I had an hour to kill and all the meal options in the world. I decided to give it a walk around the block before resorting to McDonald's, and I ended up at the Bread Factory Cafe where I had enough pesto pasta to feed an army.

On day four of my McDonald's craving (I took Friday off, apparently) I decided I'd have either Burger King or McDonald's on my way to Bush Terminal Park, but then I remembered I wanted to check out Industry City where there is food to be had. I had a crepe-wrapped sandwich called a "jianbing" and a Vietnamese iced coffee.

Today was the breaking point. I decided I would get a deli sandwich, but if the line at the deli was long, I'd sally forth to McDonald's. The deli was closed for renovations.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Shows 2016

Last year I managed to hold on to 16 Playbills from shows I saw (and also a BAMbill and a booklet from a concert at the Miller Theater), but my Gmail inbox (and to a small extent my memory) helped me put together the below list of 25 live performances I saw this year. Also using my memory, but mainly the back of the LGBAC marching band shirt and the QUO season packet, I've added up 21 of my own performances in 2016, which means I gave back to the world almost as much as I took in.

A photo posted by Andrew Berman (@andrew.berman) on


  • January: Spring Awakening (Broadway, Deaf West), with mom
  • January: Fiddler on the Roof (Broadway), with Marissa
  • February: Noises Off (Broadway, Roundabout), with Stella. The beginning of the end of my Hiptix eligibility
  • March: She Loves Me (Broadway, Roundabout), with Kate
  • March: The Robber Bridegroom (Broadway, Roundabout), with Mike
  • March: 1776 (City Center Encores!), with Anne
  • March: Puffs (PIT), with wizards and witches
  • August: Waitress (Broadway), with NYMAAC
  • September: Holiday Inn (Broadway), with Lindsay, Marita, and Ana (I took Leslie's place)
  • October: The Unconventional Convention (Squeaky Bicycle Productions), NYMAAC and friends
  • November: The Color Purple (Broadway), with Louise and mom
  • November: Something Rotten (Broadway), with Louise
  • November: In Transit (Broadway), with Anne via lottery
  • December: Dear Evan Hansen (Broadway), with NYMAAC
  • December: The Femmys (PIT) with Max
11 musicals, 4 plays (including an evening of one-acts)
11 Broadway, 2 PIT, 1 City Center, 1 SBP
Spring Awakening and Fiddler I'd seen before (in one medium or another), She Loves Me I'd seen in its incarnation as the film You've Got Mail, and Waitress I'd seen in its previous film version. The rest were new to me, but I did get my hands on the film version of Noises Off as soon as I could after seeing the play. Everything was great, but honestly I haven't stopped talking about Puffs since I saw it.

  • February: NY Phil: Mozart, Respighi (Lincoln Center), with percussionistas
  • February: NY Phil: Kodály, Liszt, Dvorák, Ravel (Lincoln Center), with Courtney
  • March: Selected Shorts at Radio Love Fest (BAM), with Holly
  • March: Whoopi Goldberg (King's), with Mike (I took Randy's place)
  • April: Brian Nash & Nate Buccieri: Snuggling Pianos (54 Below), with Mike
  • July: Reich/Reverberations: Drumming (Lincoln Center), with percussionistas
  • July: Molly Pope in A Star Is Born (54 Below), with Brian and two Mikes
  • September: Steve Reich: Variations (Miller Theater), with percussionistas
  • November: NY Phil: Beethoven, Dvorák (Lincoln Center), with percussionistas
  • November: Dar Williams (Ridgefield Playhouse), with Sara
Slightly harder to compare these, but I think I'll give the year to July. Steve Reich's Drumming was transcendent, and Molly Pope is otherworldly.

  • 6 QUO concerts
  • 2 LGBAC symphonic band concerts
  • 5 parades with the LGBAC marching band
  • 5 stand (or sit)-and-plays with the LGBAC marching band
  • 2 services (Easter and Christmas Eve) at the Church of the Holy Apostles
  • 1 concert and 1 parade with the LGBA massed band in Palm Springs
Highlights of the year: playing Fanfare For Tambourines at QUOtets with Alvaro, Clint, Sean, George, and Brent, with Ian conducting; watching the young audience's enthralled reaction to "The Wild Woods" at QUO's children's concert; Kelly Watkins' last concert with the LGBAC and getting to rock out on the vibraphone in Danzón; a Pride Day full of fun with the LGBAC marching band, followed by a cocktail party at Brandon & Luke's, and then meeting up with our QUO friends at the Eagle; everything about the LGBA conference in Palm Springs.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TV consumed in 2016

I don't normally make a Big TV Post, mainly because it's embarrassing how much TV I watch, but embarrassing details about myself are some of my best blog fodder. This was actually prompted by a first date I went on recently in which the guy asked me what I'm currently watching. I answered honestly, which was "Madam Secretary," and he grimaced. I know Madam Secretary isn't the height of television art, but I like it, so whatever. I felt insecure in that moment, so I tried to balance that guilty pleasure with other more hip (?) shows, like "The Crown" and OITNB, but after that my memory failed me. I told him that as my homework (playing off the fact that he's a professor) I'd bring a list of my 2016 viewing to our next date. We did have a second date, but the subject didn't come up and I decided to let the topic die. Since I did go to the trouble of making the list, I present it to you now.

Series I started watching in 2016:
Making a Murderer (s1)
Chelsea Does (s1)
W1A (s1-2)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (s1)
The Shannara Chronicles (s1)
Star Trek: Enterprise (s1-4)
The Killing (e1-10)
The Crown (s1)
Madam Secretary (s1-2)
Orphan Black (s1-3)
The Man in the High Castle (s1)
The Magicians (e1-9)
Wolf Hall (s1)
The OA (s1)

In the above list we have 3 sci-fi, 3 period dramas, 2 documentaries, 2 comedies, 2 fantasy, 1 police drama, and 1 political drama. Michelle Forbes appears in two (Killing, Orphan), Claire Foy appears in two (Wolf, Crown), Rick Worthy appears in two (Castle, Magicians), and Jason Ralph appears in two (Magicians, Secretary). I enjoyed Crazy and the Crown the most. The OA is second to them only because the finale left me feeling a little nope. Everything on this list I either finished or intend to finish, so I didn't dislike any of them, but Shannara and Enterprise made me roll my eyes the most, with the Magicians not far behind.

Series I continued watching in 2016:
Call the Midwife (s5)
Mad Men (s7)
Nurse Jackie (s6-7)
The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt (s2)
Grace & Frankie (s2 e1-2)
Orange is the New Black (s4)
The Fall (s3)
Gilmore Girls (reboot e1-4)
Downton Abbey (s6)
Transparent (s2)

3 period dramas, 3 other kinds of dramas, and 4 shows that cover a spectrum from comedy to dramedy. Kimmie Schmidt is far and away my favorite of these, although there were a bunch of impressive finales. I want to want Grace & Frankie more.

Series I tried watching in 2016:
X-Files Reboot (e1-3)
Twin Peaks (e1-2)
Characters (e1)
Love (e1)
Lady Dynamite (e1)
Chelsea (e1)
Bloodline (e1)
Marcella (e1-2)
Stranger Things (e1)

Nothing really to report on here. I do plan to watch Stranger Things, though. The only reason I stopped is Netflix was being testy.

Movies I watched via Netflix in 2016:
Do I Sound Gay?
The Big Short

Mostly non-fiction here, although some of it dramatized.

Movies I watched in theaters in 2016 (that I remember):
The Secret Life of Pets
Rogue One
Fantastic Newts and the Beasts Who Love Them

I'm glad I saw Carol to class up this list.

Movies I watched on planes in 2016:
How to Be Single

I watched these one right after the other, and I wish I'd done it the other way around. Zootopia was fantastic. How to Be Single was garbage. I wasn't expecting much from it (although I was charmed by the cast's appearance on "Watch What Happens: Live") and it still disappointed.

I'm way better at keeping track of the books I've read and want to read than I am at TV and movies. Maybe I'll be better at that in the new year, but probably not as we all know people don't change.

I'll probably do one more of these for live shows, and then go back to forgetting I have a blog for a few months.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Ways in which first dates are like job interviews

  • You try six or nine different outfits before choosing something you don't realize has a stain on it
  • You don't want to go, at all
  • You spend the the preceding minutes pondering your greatest weakness
  • You are overdressed
  • You have to explain any gaps in your résumé
  • If you happen to be both single and unemployed, you treat any date or job interview as if it could be either
  • A bird lands on a tree branch just outside the window and you consider a simpler existence
  • You spill coffee on yourself
  • You have sex at the end
  • You send a thank you message the day after, expressing a hope that you'll see each other again
  • You never hear from them again, and you console yourself with stories of how they weren't right for you anyway
  • Your mom says the right one will come along, and maybe you should have worn the shirt she got you. Your dad offers to call them for you.