Dec 312018

Aside from a few health issues, 2018 treated me relatively well. The news cycle seemed endless and 2019 will probably be more of the same, but pop culture always provides me with an escape. Here are the books, TV, movies, and music that sustained me over the past year.


  • Black Panther 
  • A Quiet Place
  • Leave No Trace
  • Hereditary
  • First Reformed
  • Hostiles
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


  • The Americans
  • The Terror
  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • The Good Place
  • Killing Eve
  • Barry
  • Better Call Saul


  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • The Magician King by Lev Grossman


  • Honey by Robyn
  • Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae
  • Time ‘n’ Place by Kero Kero Bonito
  • Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington

I hope 2019 brings you good things. Have a safe and happy New Year!

Mar 222018

Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor marks the start of the second season of the ridiculous drama that is this administration. The second season promises a much darker tone as the plot careens from one global crisis to another and viewers struggle to keep up with the backstabbing machinations of Trump’s inner circle.

Except that this is real life and innocent people could die because a crazed ideologue will be advising our president on foreign policy. I had harbored hope that we could muddle through the next few years without this president sparking a true catastrophe. That could still happen, but I’m feeling less confident after this evening’s developments.

Feb 252018

The Magician King (The Magicians, #2)The Magician King by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second installment in the Magicians trilogy is a weightier affair than the first book, focusing on themes of loss, mental illness, and the mysterious underpinnings of magic. The book spends a lot of time with Julia, a minor character from the first novel who was denied entry to the school for magicians that became home for Quentin and the other main characters. We witness her growing obsession to learn magic by more nontraditional means, as well as the toll it exacts on her mental health.

The book alternates between Julia’s story and a more traditional quest-y storyline that you would find in most fantasy novels. The quest seems a bit undercooked, but Grossman’s portrayal of Julia is both beautiful and heartbreaking for reasons that become clear in the final pages. The prose can be clever bordering on smug; Grossman wants the reader to know that he is deconstructing the ponderous formalism of the genre and much of his writing is quite funny, but it eventually feels like he’s showing off.

I’m tempted to begin the third installment immediately, but I think I’ll let this story sit with me for a while before returning to Fillory. In the meantime, I should really check out the Syfy series based on the books.

View all my reviews

Oct 042013

Both MNsure and the federal exchange have experienced plenty of technical glitches since they launched on Tuesday. As I’ve written many times previously, these glitches aren’t unexpected, but they certainly don’t look good. Medicare Part D had similar issues when it launched and the bugs were fixed in subsequent weeks. I’m confident that the exchanges will address their technical problems with similar haste, but they will need to remind people that they have until December 15th to sign up for January coverage.

Plenty of smart people have worked long hours to get these systems up and running. They realize that the tech isn’t perfect, but they are committed to making it better.

Aug 272013

I just noticed that my blog had over 3,000 hits on a single day last week. And I have no idea why. As far as I can tell, no major site has linked to me and I certainly haven’t posted anything scandalous in recent weeks. Or years, for that matter. Strange.

Nov 192012

Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick describes the current mood in Israel:

You want to hear about what it’s like here? It’s fucking sad. Everyone I know is sad. My kids don’t care who started it and the little boys in Issawiya, the Arab village I see out my window, don’t care much either. I haven’t met a single Israeli who is happy about this. They know this fixes nothing. The one thing we learned this week is how quickly humans can come to normalize anything. But the hopelessness seeps right into your bones as well.

The rest of her essay is worth a read. I don’t have anything insightful to add, other than to express hope that both sides can find a way to end the violence.

Aug 242012

Do you like videogames? Do you like 80s pop culture references? Do you like books about videogames replete with 80s pop culture references? Then Ready Player One might be for you. It tells the story of Wade, a teen living in the American Midwest circa 2041. Things are not going well in Wade’s future America; the economy is in permanent recession, the climate is wrecked, and most people live in miserable poverty. Wade lives in a suburban ghetto built from old trailer homes and cars. His only escape is OASIS, a highly sophisticated online environment that has its origins in games like World of Warcraft. Wade spends nearly every waking moment in OASIS, attending school, playing games, and hanging out with the avatars of friends he has never met in person. And like millions of other OASIS denizens, he is trying to solve a series of puzzles left behind by OASIS’ deceased founder, a reclusive genius. The first person to successfully complete the puzzle sequence wins complete control of OASIS and unimaginable wealth. Nobody has managed to determine the significance of the first clue in the years since the founder’s death until Wade experiences a pivotal eureka moment.

Author Ernest Cline isn’t afraid to let his geek flag fly and writes an affectionate tribute to gaming and pop culture obsessives. This is probably the only novel you’ll read that references Family Ties, Ladyhawke, and Cyndi Lauper. Much of the book is set OASIS, which allows for all sorts of narrative pyrotechnics. Cline sometimes makes the mistake of pushing the reader to be as enamored with the mechanics of his invented world as Cline so plainly is, but it’s a forgivable sin. Cline’s workmanlike prose keeps the tale of disaffected youth and nefarious corporations breezing along to a saatisfying end.

Aug 132012

Paul Ryan has probably read more books than Sarah Palin, but they’re both cut from the same far-right cloth. Nate Silver is probably right; Romney wouldn’t pick Ryan if he felt that he was sitting pretty with his base and positioned strongly for the upcoming election. Ryan is a pick designed to reassure conservatives yet again that Romney really, truly is one of them. Solidifying the base may be a good strategy in a close election, but Ryan’s plans for scaling back entitlements may give independents pause.

I doubt Ryan will do much to sway the election; people vote for a president, not their running mates. The debate between Biden and Ryan could be interesting, though. It will be the aw-shucks youthful reactionary versus the garrulous old-school liberal.

Jun 082012

Enjoy the weekend. I’ll be escaping the heat by paying a visit to a certain spaceship named Prometheus. The reviews seem positive enough to alleviate my fears that this will be another Alien 3. Perhaps I’ll post a review next week.