Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book review: Maybe We'll Have You Back

Actor and comedian Fred Stoller's Maybe We'll Have You Back: The Life of a Perennial TV Guest Star serves up an engaging glimpse into life as a performer who's always the bridesmaid but never the bride. Or, as he puts it in the subtitle, someone who's a "Perennial TV Guest Star."

He's gotten countless small gigs and guest spots, but never struck oil as a series regular in a hit show early in its run (or even a modestly successful show -- he did land regular spots on a few series, but probably nothing you've ever heard of because they were gone before you could say "New issue of TV Guide"). He got or nearly got regular spots on a few higher profile shows, but it always came just before the series ended. This is not the guy to blow on your dice for luck at Vegas, 'cause he's got none to spare.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mad Men recap: A Satisfying Goodbye (Part III)

It's taken me awhile to get here, but let me finally wrap up my last Mad Men recap (even typing those words leaves a melancholy echo in my thoughts).

Joan, Roger and Pete -- I'm good with how all of those characters were left. It would've been nice if Joan and Roger had coupled up earlier in the series, but by this point I think it would've felt too artificial. They'd missed too many chances, and by "they" I mostly mean Roger. Remember after he had the heart attack and Joan realized how much she cared for him, and he seemed ready to tell her he loved her, but instead told her she was the best piece of ass he'd ever had? Yeah, that was the sound of him stomping into dust a lot of years of happiness he could've had with Joan. And they had a few other moments that just weren't grabbed. I see them as always being friends, and maybe if he's alone again as he gets old and frail, Joan may be the one taking care of him. Or rather, stroking his hand while she yells orders at the employee doing the actual caretaking.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mad Men recap: A satisfying goodbye (Part II)

We know for sure Don created the Coke ad because Matthew Weiner confirmed it. That makes the ending so much better than if we were left with uncertainty on that point -- if we didn't know he returned to advertising, we'd wonder if he ever went back to work (and his kids), or if he kept the wandering nomad routine forever (or met some grim end). I already appreciated how well things were wrapped up for the other characters, but if you weren't sure if Don had created that ad or where his life was headed, it kinda blew as far as his storyline was concerned. But even before it was confirmed,  I felt sure he'd created the ad. Everything we'd seen in Don's retreat seemed like the inspiration that came out in the finished commercial (sort of like with Seinfeld in the early days, when the episode was about his inspiration for the stand-up set included in each show).

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book deals

A slew of good deals await Kindle users with Amazon's Gold Box Deal of the Day.

My top choice of the lot is the SNL oral history Live From New York: The Complete Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by its Stars, Writers, and Guests. It's been a few years since I read this, but if I recall, some highlights included Tina Fey telling exactly what she thought of working with Paris Hilton, descriptions of what it was like to work with the famously difficult Chevy Chase, and Dan Aykroyd recounting just about any of his stories. There are also some touching recollections of the late Gilda Radner. I have it in paperback but snagged an ebook anyway.

Other popular books at a bargain rate include Water for Elephants, The Namesake, How to be a Woman, and many more.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thanks, Dave (nothing could ever be this good again)

Frickin' Foo Fighters, playing frickin' Everlong, one of the most beautiful, powerful songs possible to accompany the final rapid-fire clips of David Letterman's show before he signed off for good. I still haven't completely shaken the emotion of it. You should have to put a disclaimer before something like that. And it fit so well (of course, Everlong always seems to fit any mood and situation):

If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You gotta promise not to stop when I say when

But Wednesday night, Letterman did stop. He signed off for the final time to begin retirement. As much as I hate to see him go, I think he did the right thing at the right time for himself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mad Men recap: A satisfying goodbye, (Part I)

I'm still recovering from Mad Men's series finale (Person to Person) two nights ago. I was so wired I barely slept after watching the wonderfully satisfying episode. It was better than I could've hoped for and gave more closure and answers to fans than I expected.

First, let's deal with Peggy and Stan. For years fans have buzzed with the hope those two crazy kids would get together, and damned if Matthew Weiner didn't come through. Yes, it was a little schmaltzy, but so frickin' what?! It was awesome and I think appropriate. I clapped my hands and yelled "Yay!" at the screen, and watched the scene twice (still clapping and uncontrollably yelling, "Yay! Yaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy!"). It was a joyous moment.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cool stuff to read and listen to

Books: I'm currently enjoying Anthony Doerr's beautiful novel, All The Light We Cannot See. For insight into how he developed the idea for the story, check out this interview.

Music: Valerie June's Pushin' Against a Stone jangles my speakers at the moment. I read a review of this somewhere and added it my wish list, then forgot about it like hundreds of other things I mark to check out later. But with some Microsoft credit about to expire, I cast about for something to purchase and landed on this (thank you, Xbox Music). So far I'm loving June's unique sound, that's a bit country, blues, gospel and folk.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mad Men recap: Don set adrift, or how my head exploded

Last night's penultimate episode of Mad Men, "The Milk and Honey Route," blew my mind -- almost literally. By the time it was over I had such a throbbing headache I had to call it a night, though I couldn't fall asleep for hours and then work up a few hours later for good. Granted, I always have a problem sleeping, but this was extreme even for me. I don't know if the sharp, jagged blows delivered by the storyline did me in or if it was the margarita I subbed for ChocoVine to see me through the tense episode, but by the time the credits faded my head hurt so badly I couldn't keep my eyes open for the pain. It could also be the weather or allergies or who knows what, but I'm going with Mad Men being so startling it almost knocked me out.

I thought last week Don was fading into the ether, and that seems to be exactly where's he happily heading. The housekeeper/errand boy/junior criminal at the motel immediately pegged Don as rich, while it seems the village folk with their pitchforks must've thought he was a poor drifter. Who could blame them, seeing his Sears luggage (not a suitcase from Sears, but rather a paper shopping sack from the store that held all his worldly goods -- other than the millions he has in the bank, of course). But it takes a con man to know a con man, and the kid sized Don up a little better than the others. Don sized him up perfectly, of course, and recognized a kindred spirit who'd been dealt a shit hand and wanted out of Dodge.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Choco Wino kitchen: Fun with blueberries

Welcome to my first installment of cooking the Choco Wino way. Like most things in life, kitchen stuff (aka cooking and so forth) is made easier with a glass of chocolate wine in hand. So first things first, pour a little chilled choco wine in your favorite glass, mug or flask, take a sip, and proceed.

I recently found this recipe for Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries, and it looks super yummy. What’s more, it’s so easy even I couldn’t mess it up. You just get a toothpick and dip each individual blueberry into Greek yogurt, swirl them around, spread ’em out on a baking tray that’s been covered in wax paper, set it in the freezer … eh, who am I kidding, I will never do that. 

How about this: put the blueberries in a bowl, dump the yogurt on top, stir it up, take a bite. Sip your wine. Take another bite. Sip more wine. Repeat repeatedly. You’re welcome.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cool stuff to read and listen to

Cool stuff I'm enjoying online today:

Podcast: You Made it Weird interview with writer/director Judd Apatow

Blog post: Author Hugh Howey explains the best way to support your favorite authors (hint: it's not just buying their work that helps, but WHERE you buy their work that makes a difference)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Top 5 funny books you won't want to miss this summer

When funny people write a memoir or collection of essays, I'm in. These make great reads (and usually great listens as well for audiobook fans). Below, in order of release date, are five highly anticipated books by funny folks set to be released this summer.

Reflections from Hell: Richard Lewis' Guide on How Not to Live by Richard Lewis
May 5
This is a bit of cheat, because the book has already been released (but just barely -- I missed it by a day!). You know Lewis from his decades as a comic and actor, and maybe you remember his hilarious role as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm. This book is different than others on my list in that it's actually an illustrated look at Lewis' comedy. It's described as "jokes and reflections that are fantastically illustrated by the remarkable art of Carl Titolo." Only available in hardback (my Kindle weeps digital tears at being left out).

Happily Ali After: And Other Fairly True Tales by Ali Wentworth
June 9

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mad Men recap: Peggy forever

Peggy strutting into McCann-Erickson like a boss, like a straight up boss, will be one of my top memories of the show. She had that ciggie hanging, sunglasses on, freaky octopus porn under her arm (faced out so all could see, because she DGAF). I admit I couldn’t bring myself to hang that in my office, and I would’ve wrapped it up just to carry it home on the subway. But I definitely would’ve kept it as a memento of Bert, and besides, any art he owned was probably worth enough to buy a small island. Or at least a car.

In last night’s episode, Lost Horizon, everyone found out what a shit sandwich working at McCann would be. Except for Harry with his Amazing, Massive, Very Huge Gonkulator, who basically landed in a pot of jam, and Pete, who seems likely to thrive. But for everyone else, it’s a punch in the gut. Or the lady parts, as the case may be.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Book Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

The Storied life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was an entertaining novel that I liked, if never quite loved. The characters never seemed entirely real to me. This didn’t stop me from liking them greatly, however.

This is a good book for those seeking a tale that isn’t too heavy, but also isn’t without substance. And if you only have short blocks of time to read here and there, you can enter and exit the text without feeling you've lost a sense of the book's atmosphere or plot because the story is simple and sweet (and yes, at times sad). This isn't a bad thing -- sometimes readers are in the mood for stories that aren’t empty calories, but aren’t going to fill them up, either. 

This would be an ideal book to whip out on the plane or beach or overcast afternoon when you just want to decompress. It's a pleasant "buffer" book to take the edge off between reading more intense novels. It’s a light, quick read and a nice story -- when that's what you need, give this one a go.

Favorite line: "We are what we love."