Weekend Reads & What to Watch

Last weekend I talked about time management and using the Pomodoro Technique to GSD. But one facet of time management that I consistently struggle with is how I want to spend my weekends. I have been in isolation for 10 months now. I live alone and work from home. The days pretty much all blend together and the weekend doesn’t feel that much different than the work week, except for Monday-Friday I sit on my couch with a Dell computer and Saturday and Sunday I sit on my couch with a Mac Book.

If I wake up on Saturday morning and immediately start doing chores, I get annoyed that I have wasted 1/2 of my opportunities to be a slovenly slob and do nothing. If I lay in bed and relax, I get annoyed that I have wasted 1/2 of my opportunities to be productive and get things done. Sunday is essentially rinse and repeat.

For some reason, if I spend my days reading or consuming content on the Big Screen instead of the Medium Screen or Small Screen, I don’t feel quite as bad. As I have previously blogged about, I have really gotten into reading lately (I even downloaded GoodReads!) and have been watching lots of classic movies (that were not produced by or star Adam Sandler).

WHAT I’M READING

Because I have the attention span of a goldfish and so many competing interests, I am really bad about reading multiple books at once. Here’s what I’m currently reading:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

The cat’s out of the bag. I am a sucker for a good self help book. Some of them are, admittedly, better than others. This is one of them. I’m about half way through this book and am really enjoying it. What I appreciate about James Clear is that he’s able to meet you where you’re at. Okay, so you suck at managing your time or you have an insatiable shopping habit (yes, I do feel personally attacked, in case you were wondering)—those things can be fixed! They won’t be fixed overnight and there is no magic cure, but you can be mindful and intentional and change any bad habit you have or create any good one you want simply by making an effort. I appreciate that.

Blink: The Power of Thinking by Not Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

This book isn’t quite self-help, I would say maybe self-help adjacent? The short answer is that this book is about thinking—more specifically the way that we think without thinking. The longer, more accurate description of that book is that it’s intended purpose is to challenge your internal processes and unconscious mind; to illuminate rapid cognition—the split decisions we make in an instant without seemingly ever really considering anything—and give scientific and anecdotal evidence on why that can be both a good and bad thing. Admittedly, this book is harder for me to stay focused on than Atomic Habits.

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and this sounded too good to pass up. This is the story of a midcentury American family with twelve (!!!) children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease. Don and Mimi Galvin moved their family to Colorado after World War II so that Don could pursue his career in the Air Force. I’m only about 60 pages in so haven’t really gotten to the good part yet, but I already dislike Don. I think he’s a dickhead. And I feel bad for Mimi for having to give up on her dreams so that her husband could chase his. I am glad that the “good ‘ol days” are a thing of the past because you won’t catch me popping out 12 kids and moving to BFE for anyone.

WHAT I’M WATCHING

The White Tiger

The White Tiger is a searing look at India’s caste system that follows narrator Balram from his childhood in a rural village in India, to his current vantagepoint as a newly minted entreprenur.

Balram is smart and ambitious, but destined to work his family’s tea stand and be married off to someone of his Granny’s choosing. When he sees an opportunity to learn to drive, he jumps on it, learns the ropes (i.e., the flattery that the ruling class requires of their servants) and ultimately lands a driving job for a man who is just back from the U.S.

This movie is based on the 2008 book of the same name. The first half of the movie is spent illuminating the caste system in India—the way that it’s rigged to keep the wealthy in their lofty positions while keeping the poor on the streets far below. After being insanely loyal to his masters (like a rooster in a cage), the movie takes a really dark turn when Balram is betrayed by his employers (I did appreciate that Priyanka Chopra plays a bad person both in real life and in this movie!).

After realizing the corrupt lengths his masters will go to to save themselves (and throw him under the bus), Balram claws his way out of the cage that is his servitude and rebels against the system to become a new kind of master—his own.

I spent a good portion of this movie feeling sorry for Balram because I think he’s a genuinely good person. I hated when he was made fun of. I hated when they mocked him for wearing the outfit that he especially picked out and called him “maharaja.” I thought that he looked so elegant and nice in his new kurta. I hated when Pinky made him feel bad for behaving a certain way in front of her guest. I felt so terrible when he says “why did my father not teach my to scratch my groin? Why didn’t he teach me to brush my teeth?” As a viewer, I felt the sting of betrayal when he realizes what his masters have done to him.

Adarsh Gourav did such a great job acting that I felt very invested in the film.

10/10 would definitely recommend—but only if you can give it your full attention as you’ll need to read the subtitles (I believe they’re speaking Hindi?)

Eat, Pray, Love

Can someone help me understand this? Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the eponymous book in 2006. The book ended up landing on Oprah’s Book Club and then skyrocketed to the NYT Best Seller’s list where it stayed for something like one million weeks (I exaggerate, obviously). It has since sold more than 10 million copies world wide. But…why? I, admittedly, haven’t read the book but I fucking hated the movie. It could not possibly be more self-aggrandizing if it tried to be.

First of all, I hate the way that she treated her husband. She decides she doesn’t want to be married anymore, seemingly because he wants children and she does not, but does a horrible job of communicating with him. She has no regard for his feelings, instead complaining to a friend that he “hates her.” TBH, I hate you too Elizabeth. When she supposedly is floundering, rudderless and hitting rock bottom, her editor gives her an advance on her book that funds her little trip around the world. Life is so hard.

The worst part for me is when she gets to Indonesia because, true to everything we know about her thus far, she is a self-centered asshole who cannot fathom a life that doesn’t, in some way, revolve around her. While in Bali, she meets a healer who is living in poverty and thinks that she can “fix” this woman’s situation by throwing money at her. The bottom line is that, despite her new-agey global trotting, she doesn’t understand other cultures and views it as something that is backwards and needs fixing. So, essentially, she tricks this woman into buying a home before she goes back to the States because it makes her feel like she did something good. This is precisely why people hate Westerners.

0/10. Don’t waste your time watching this. 2 hours and 20 minutes I will never get back.

Julie & Julia

I’m trying to watch movies I’ve never seen before and this was on the homepage of Amazon Prime so I thought, what the hell. Worth a shot. Surprisingly, I loved it! Amy Adams, Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are wonderful in this movie.

Julia Child’s story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child’s first book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” I loved the cinematography of this movie, the way that Julia’s life was juxtaposed with Julie’s and how similar they were—despite all of their differences and the time and space between them.

I loved that Julie challenged herself to get through the entire cook book in one year—524 recipes in 365 days—and that she blogged the entire experience. I also appreciated when she said that blogging feels like screaming into a void, because, as I can attest, it oftentimes does.

Also, another important side note: Stanley Tucci is so hot. He’s like a hot dad or a hot professor. I said what I said and I am not sorry.

10/10. Would recommend if you’re looking for something that is equal parts light-hearted and poignant.

TL;DR

Look at me, using quarantine to become more well-rounded. And it only took 10 months! However, in the midst of watching all these movies i’ve never seen, I did buy the 40 Year Old Virgin on Amazon. And I did rewatch some of Sex and the City. You can pry those classics from my cold, dead hands.

If you purchase any of the books I mentioned and you’re in Lansing or Grand Rapids, please considering supporting Schuler’s Books. I don’t get a commission or anything like that—they are just a wonderful local retailer.

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