May 2017 Update

Books, Movies, Reading

Like April, May was a fairly quiet month, but we did do a few things around the neighborhood which were fun. We feel fortunate that when we moved to Philadelphia almost six years ago that we ended up in the neighborhood we did. I had always wanted to live an urban lifestyle with so much to do within walking distance, and it has been as enjoyable as I hoped it would be.

At the very beginning of the month, we went to a Basque Wine Tasting at Jet Wine Bar, which was one of the first places we discovered after the move. In fact, I had come across it when I was scouting things out ahead of Holly’s arrival and knew it was a place for us. Since then, a few more really good wine places have opened up, and we haven’t been to Jet as often as we once had, but we still love it and still make sure not too much time passes before we get back. We always enjoy their wine tasting, and they are always very informative. Both Holly and I enjoy wines from the Basque region of Spain, so this tasting was right up our alley.

The following Sunday, we went on a walking tour of South Street West given by a friend of ours. Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperative, and we ended up walking in the rain for a while. I was also fighting off a cold but was still able to enjoy the experience and learn a few new things about our neighborhood. We also met a few other neighborhood enthusiasts.

Because of the weather, I didn’t take many pictures but did get a couple for my on-going local lettering project.

The tour ended at the new-ish Gray’s Ferry Triangle which seemed appropriate since the next week was the annual Plazapalooza in the same location, an event with live music, games, beer, and food trucks. We’ve been every year and always enjoy it. Apparently, May weather doesn’t want to be friendly, and it was cold and gray that day as well. But we hung out for a while and got delicious sandwiches and mac’n’cheese from Phoebe’s BBQ. Despite living three blocks away from Phoebe’s, that was the first time we had their food. The one downside to living in such a great neighborhood is struggling to try all the restaurants and bars. It’s a good problem to have.

Books Read

2017 continues to be a good reading year. I read three books during May, although two of them were short graphic novels. Obviously, I have nothing against graphic novels since I read them, but since they are short and quick reads, they seem to unfairly inflate the number of books I read. Not that that really matters. My reading goal is a fairly arbitrary number.

2017 looks to be Star Wars heavy. I had already read Lost Stars and The Thrawn Trilogy. I have a few other Star Wars books on my radar but ended up reading something unexpected. Amazon had a sale on the Star Wars, Vol 1: Skywalker Strikes ebook by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday, and I impulsively downloaded it. I don’t like reading graphic novels on my Kindle Paperwhite, but they look great on the Kindle iPad app. I wasn’t familiar with this graphic novel so it was a pleasant surprise. It is part of the new canon and takes place right after Star Wars: A New Hope. I enjoyed it enough to buy volume 2 but haven’t gotten to it yet.

The other graphic novel I read was Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I’ve been hooked on this series since it first came out. I wasn’t thrilled with Volume 6 and was concerned it might be losing steam, but Volume 7 alleviated that fear.

Finally, I read Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I had read it back in high school but given that that was over 30 years ago, I didn’t remember anything about it. I started reading a free ebook version of it from Feedbooks via the now defunct Readmill. As much as I like my Kindle, I also still enjoy print and sometimes bounce back-and-forth between an ebook and print copy (as I had done last month with Every Day Is for the Thief). I decided to check-out a copy of Madame Bovary from my library and was a bit shocked by the difference between the two translations. Intellectually, I am aware that different translations of the same thing can come out a bit differently, but the differences between these two were dramatic. The ebook was translated by Eleanor Marx-Aveline and the print was a more recent (2010) translation by Lydia Davis. I decided to stick with the Lydia Davis version because it had endnotes which, among other things, explained some of her translation decisions.

Books Read in May

  • Star Wars, Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes (ebook)
  • Madame Bovary (library book)
  • Saga, Volume 7

Books Read in 2017

  • A Gambler’s Anatomy (library book)
  • The Princess Diarist (library book)
  • The Best American Essays 2016
  • Moonglow (library book)
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (ebook)
  • Ploughshares Winter 2017-2018
  • The Good Soldier (ebook)
  • Lost Stars (ebook)
  • Binti (ebook)
  • In Farleigh Field (ebook)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Thrawn Trilogy (ebook)
  • Ploughshares Spring 2017
  • Every Day Is for the Thief (library book)
  • Star Wars, Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes (ebook)
  • Madame Bovary (library book)
  • Saga, Volume 7

Movies Watched

I continued working my way through the top 20 films from Film Comment’s list of the best films of 2016 by watching Cemetery of Splendor, Right Now Wrong Then, and The Handmaiden. I had seen a couple of films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul before (Tropical Malady and Syndromes and a Century) and found them slow but rewarding. I had a similar reaction to Cemetery of Splendor but enjoyed it more than the other two. Cemetery of Splendor is a challenging film about a woman who cares for one of the soldiers who have a mysterious sickness which causes them to sleep for long periods of time. During the times when the soldier is awake, the two form a touching, almost mother and son relationship.

Similarly, I had seen two films by Sang-soo Hong before (Turning Gate and Woman Is the Future of Man) and found them slow but not so rewarding. I had a similar reaction to Right Now Wrong Then but enjoyed it more than the other two. As with the other Sang-soo Hong films, this one features a lot of scenes of people sitting around talking. The gimmick in Right Now Wrong Then is that it tells the same story twice with some variation. The variation comes down to the annoying film director who tries to woo a young woman in the first part is more annoying in the second.

I can see why the daring, challenging, and visually interesting Cemetery of Splendor made the list, but I’m at a loss to see why the pedestrian Right Now Wrong Then made it.

And then there was the wild The Handmaiden, Chan-wook Park’s complex tale of deceit and revenge. A young woman teams up with a con-man and is hired out as a handmaiden to an heiress. The young woman is supposed to convince the heiress to marry the conman so he can get to her fortune but the scheme does not go as planned. The film is full of surprises and is exciting at every turn and a well-deserved addition to any best of list.

I also watched a couple of movies on Film Struck. John Cassavetes’s A Woman Under the Influence was an emotionally draining experience about a woman struggling with mental health issues. Good Neighbor Sam, which I had never heard of before until it came to Filmstruck, was a completely opposite experience being a light and funny movie. Jack Lemmon plays a bored office worker who helps out his wife’s friend by posing as her husband so that she can get an inheritance. One lie leads to another and things spin out of control.

I’m not a big fan of podcasts, but I have been listening to the Film Comment podcast which has led me to discover some films either I hadn’t heard of before or I knew of but hadn’t seen. I had long been interested in Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid but only watched it after hearing it discussed on the podcast. The podcast also led me to Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends. In May, the podcast led me to the strangely fascinating Puzzle of a Downfall Child, directed by Jerry Schatzberg and starring Faye Dunaway. Dunaway plays a model in the throes of a mental breakdown which made it an interesting companion piece to A Woman Under the Influence. Unlike Cassavetes’s film which throws the viewer into the thick of the Gena Rowland character’s breakdown, Puzzle of a Downfall Child is more interested in the longer story of what led to the main character’s difficulties. And the title doesn’t lie. Much of Dunaway’s character’s troubles remain a puzzle.

It is always disappointing when a good movie is not readily available as is the case with Puzzle of a Downfall Child. After hearing about it on the podcast, I tried to find a legitimate version but was unable to. Luckily, there is a version on YouTube.

Movies Watched in May

  • Puzzle of a Downfall Child
  • Cemetery of Splendor
  • A Woman Under the Influence
  • Right Now Wrong Then
  • The Handmaiden
  • Good Neighbor Sam

Movies Watched in 2017

  • Hell or High Water
  • 13th
  • Mountains May Depart
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut
  • The Long Good Friday
  • The Witch
  • Patterson (in theater)
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The World of Jacques Demy
  • A Bigger Splash
  • Decline of Western Civilization
  • In the Mood for Love
  • La La Land (in theater)
  • Wayne’s World (in theater)
  • Hail, Caesar
  • Stranger than Paradise
  • Down by Law
  • Mystery Train
  • Night on Earth
  • The World of Henry Orient
  • The Heartbreak Kid
  • Hidden Figures (in theater)
  • Girlfriends
  • I Am Not Your Negro (in theater)
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Arrival
  • Something Wild
  • Stop Making Sense (in theater)
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Singles (in theater)
  • The Fits
  • Toni Erdmann
  • Paterson
  • Swingers
  • Elle
  • The Trip
  • The Trip to Italy
  • Puzzle of a Downfall Child
  • Cemetery of Splendor
  • A Woman Under the Influence
  • Right Now Wrong Then
  • The Handmaiden
  • Good Neighbor Sam

Blog Posts

On Being and Formulating in May

On SuperPlus Eats in May

On Being and Formulating in 2017

On Educational Media Reviews Online in 2017

On SuperPlus Eats in 2017

Photos in the Wild

Photos in the Wild in 2017