Bloodline

Life post-Master’s degree

I graduated with my Master’s two-and-a-half weeks ago, but saying I have a Master’s degree sounds fake. I imagine it will for a while, especially since my future career prospects are still a giant question mark.

Since graduation, I’ve done a lot of applying for jobs, but I’m also basking in the very strange freedom of no impending responsibilities apart from maintaining my own existence. To celebrate graduation, my mom took us to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was both rewarding and exhausting. We’re happy to have had the experience and to hopefully never need to do it again.

Luckily, this freedom means I have lots of time for my Very Favorite Activities: reading all the books and watching all the TV/movies I can think about. So, to celebrate my first time away from school in 19 years, a mostly successful and rewarding first semester of teaching, and writing a 114-page thesis, here’s how I’ve been spending my hours of entertainment.

Books—I feel like my reading progress should be more substantial since finishing school, but I did finish Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, an 870-page tome that I expect will be my longest read of 2016, so that makes up for the short reading list. I’ve also knocked out Ta-Nehisi Coates’s though-provoking and beautifully written Between the World and Me, which is essentially 150 pages of reminding white people to check their privilege. We all need more of that in our lives.

As a fairly transitional reading project, I also powered through K.C. Dyer’s Finding Fraser, a light read for fans of the Outlander series. It wasn’t anything terribly enlightening or profound, but it kept me feeling occupied and pleasant for a day or two. I’m also feeling mentally cleansed to delve back into heavier hitting literature, so I’m working through two projects right now: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. It’s my first time with both of these authors, and I think my first attempt at anything Russian, so I’m hoping for rewarding experiences. Once these are done, I plan to resume my work through Arthur Miller’s collected works since I haven’t revisited those since January and Ernest Hemingway’s collected short stories. It’s such a pleasure to know I will never have a shortage of great things to read.

Movies—My movie-watching habits have been surprisingly lame these days, partially because the movies I have watched have been rewatches rather than anything new. I do intend to see Me Before You when it’s released this week, but there hasn’t been much in theaters to draw my attention—partially because the things I am interested in are only available in limited release. I recently built up my Amazon watchlist, so I’ll hopefully start making a dent in some of those films soon.

TV—It’s probably fair to say that I haven’t watched many movies lately because I’ve been busy with TV. Though most shows I watch have stopped airing for the summer, Game of Thrones, Veep, Outlander, and Inside Amy Schumer all keep me busy enough, but I’m also doing plenty of other TV viewing. I finally got to the War & Peace miniseries adaptation that aired in January and February, and I really loved it (this is a big reason why I decided to tackle Chekov). The more I see of Lily James, the more convinced I become that she’s actually made of sunshine.

I also finished the two seasons of Starz’s cult hit Party Down yesterday, though my journey through the show has been a bit strange. I watched the first 3 episodes on my Bluray player, and when I picked up on my iPad, unknowingly began with episode 4 of season 2. I got all the way through the end of season two and backtracked to the 3 episodes of season 2 I hadn’t seen before I realized the problem. I’d been wondering if I’d been paying bad attention (Where did Jane Lynch go? When did Megan Mullally get here? When did Adam Scott start dating Kristen Bell?) or if they just didn’t explain everything very overtly, so I was glad to realize it was my organizational mistake that created the confusion rather than bad viewing habits. I may have to watch it again from start to finish sometime to make up for my stupidity.

I’ve also watched half of Amazon’s Doctor Thorne, which is charming and lovely. I expect to finish it today. And I’ve started season two of Netflix’s Bloodline, but that’s a show that’s too depressing to really binge, so I expect we’ll take some time with it. I’m also expecting that Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Grantchester will be the next two projects on my list. Nothing like a period piece to momentarily take you out of a humid Kentucky summer.

What are you reading and watching these days? I’m always looking for suggestions!

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TV Shows I Watched in 2015

I’m a bit of a champion at television-watching, so my TV list is usually rather impressive, especially at the end of the year. I don’t really set numeric goals of how many shows I hope to watch, but here’s my general list of things I wanted to watch in 2015.

Some members of my original list have been pushed to 2016, and I have two on-going projects that I’ll be finishing early in 2016 (those are the shows listed in bold). Here’s a look at what I watched this year.

  1. The Affair (1 season, 10 episodes)
  2. Angels in America (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  3. Bloodline (1 season, 13 episodes)
  4. Broadchurch, season 2 (1 season, 8 episodes)
  5. The Casual Vacancy (miniseries, 3 episodes)
  6. Catastrophe (1 season, 6 episodes)
  7. Empire (1 season, 12 episodes)
  8. The Fall, season 2 (1 season, 6 episodes)
  9. Frasier (11 seasons, 264 episodes)
  10. Game of Thrones (watched season 1 – season 5, episode 5)
  11. Inside Amy Schumer (2 seasons, 20 episodes)
  12. The Jinx (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  13. Jessica Jones (1 season, 13 episodes)
  14. John Adams (miniseries, 7 episodes)
  15. Lost (6 seasons, 120 episodes)
  16. Luther (3 seasons, 14 episodes)
  17. My So-Called Life (1 season, 19 episodes)
  18. The Office (U.K.) (2 seasons, 14 episodes)
  19. The O.C. (watched season 1 – season 3, episode 14)
  20. Olive Kitteridge (miniseries, 4 episodes)
  21. Outlander (1 season, 16 episodes)
  22. Rectify (3 seasons, 22 episodes) 
  23. Teen Wolf (4 seasons, 60 episodes)
  24. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (1 season, 13 episodes)
  25. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (1 season, 8 episodes)
  26. Wolf Hall (miniseries, 6 episodes)

After all this, I watched a grand total of 26 series and miniseries in 2015 and 764 episodes this year (though this doesn’t count any of the shows I watched live, so these numbers are a bit low).

Here’s to much more great TV in 2016!

June Entertainment: Binge-watching at its finest

It finally feels like summer is in full swing, and what a wonderful feeling it is.

Though my first year of grad school ended over a month ago (how is that even possible?), it took until last week for me to really feel like summer had set in. Between travels to New York and Texas and finishing up my job, I wasn’t able to decompress from the semester for a while, so I’m very glad to feel the freedom sinking in.

For me, this independence means finding as much time as I possibly can for entertainment purposes. What’s the point of having a degree in Pop Culture Studies if not to shirk all responsibilities to watch a movie, right?

Of course, I’ve still got academia to contend with this summer: I’m trying to spend a little time every day working on my Master’s thesis project, and at some point I’m going to sit down and try to really figure out the PhD programs I’m most interested in. That is a pretty ridiculous thought, but it’s reality.

In my leisure time, though, I’m still making room for plenty of pop culture goodness. Here’s an update on my reading and viewing ventures of late.

Books — Sometime in the last week or two I realized I’d only finished one book since the end of my semester, which put me into a bit of an irrational panic. Since then, I’ve done my best to kick into high gear and get some reading done, especially since I know I’ll be returning to some school-related reading soon enough. I’ve now worked through four more works: Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient ExpressJesse Andrews’s Me and Earl and the Dying GirlJudy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event, and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches (click the links for my reviews of these works). I’m moving onto Part Two of Angels in America today (look for my review of both parts soon), and I’m making myself read at least one Flannery O’Connor short story per day so I can finish her collected works that I started reading in March. Once I’ve finished Angels in America, I’m moving on to my primary reading goal for the summer: John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

TV — The drought of good summer TV is both a curse and a blessing; the fact that there’s so little to watch in real time means there’s a greater opportunity for bingeing on the shows I’ve been waiting to watch for some time. Last week I finished watching the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adamswhich was beautifully acted and produced. During our (very) long car ride to and from Austin, TX, I got started on my loftiest TV goal for 2015: FrasierI’m not sure I can expect to finish all 263 episodes before the end of the year, but I’ve just started season 3, so I think I’m at least making good progress.

Yesterday, my mom and I finished season 1 of Netflix’s Bloodline, a dark and twisty drama about an insanely dysfunctional family in the Florida Keys. The cast is an all-star ensemble, but the acting from Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn is particularly superb. Here’s hoping these two are recognized when the Emmy nominations are announced next month.

Since finishing Bloodline, which we started one weekend while I was still in school, we’re finally ready to make progress on two shows that have been patiently waiting on our DVR for some time now. First up is season two of Broadchurch, which we started last night. I have high hopes for another good season. After Broadchurch, we have the PBS miniseries Wolf Hall to enjoy, which I also imagine will be a nominated show come Emmy time.

As far as current TV goes, I loved (or maybe hated, based on all those deaths) season 5 of Game of Thrones just as much as the rest of the world, and I think season 4 of Veep was the show’s best yet. I’m looking forward to the premiere of season two of True Detective this weekend, but I was very underwhelmed by the first season, so I’m trying to keep my expectations low (but this cast is making me very happy, so it’s kind of hard). The only other current shows I’m watching are Hannibal and Wayward Pines, which I’m intrigued by. I got bored with Wayward Pines after a few episodes, but last week’s revelation reinvigorated my interest. As for Hannibal, it’s still as strange as ever, but totally worth watching.

Movies — Much like my reading for the summer, I found myself feeling behind on my movie-watching earlier this week, but I’m quickly remedying that fact. Mom and I saw Spy on Monday, and I’m hoping we’ll go see Inside Out soon. The only Best Picture nominee I didn’t see in time for the Oscars this year was American Sniper, mostly because the political controversy around it made me decide to abstain. We finally watched it Wednesday night and were completely underwhelmed and surprised it garnered such acclaim. I love Bradley Cooper and think he’s terrifically talented, but there’s no way he deserved another Oscar nomination over David Oyelowo’s performance in Selma. So that was a pretty big disappointment.

My fun movie news, though, is that my mom and I have established a little movie series of our own that we’re very excited about (maybe we’re easily enthused, but oh well). We still have a collection of VHS tapes, many of which are well known movies that I’ve never seen. Yesterday, we picked out 20 that we need to watch and made a bowl with numbered slips of paper, so our goal is to draw one out every day and watch the according movie. After reminding ourselves how a VCR works, we started last night with Robert Redford’s 1992 film, A River Runs Through It, a movie I’m happy to have now seen and crossed off our list.

Now I’m off to make more progress in my quest to read and watch all the things. Happy weekend!