Wednesday, August 31, 2016

2016 US OPEN: Andy, Nole, Rafa, Delpo, Stan, Serena, Venus, Angie, Aga, Garbi, Simona All Win 1R Matches

The first two night of the 2016 US Open are complete and there has been very little drama so far. All of the pre-tournamnet favorite (and top seeds) have made it through their first round: Novak Djokovic [1], Andy Murray [2], Stan Wawrinka [3], Rafael Nadal [4], Milos Raonic [5] and Serena Williams [1], Angie Kerber [2], Garbine Muguruza [3], Aggie Radwanska [4], Simona Halep [5] and Venus Williams [6] all are throuhg to Round 2.

Only Venus, Muguruza and Djokovic had some difficulties in theiir first round, with each of them losing a set (of course in 3-sets matches this is pretty dire).

Following up on my list of first round matches to watch:

  • Serena Williams defeated Ekaterina Makarova in two high-quality (not close) sets 6-3 6-3
  • Camilla Giorgi lost to Sam Stosur (6-1 in the 3rd)
  • Taylor Townsend lost to Caroline Wozniacki
  • Yulia Putintseva beat Sabine Lisicki
  • Sara Errani lost to Shelby Rogers 
  • John Isner beat Frances Tiafoe despite losing the first two sets and Tiafoe servnig for the match in the 5th set, Isner won a 5th set tiebreak
  • Stan Wawrinka defeated Fernando Verdasco in straight sets
  • Gael Monfils beat Gilles Muller in straight sets
  • Jack Sock defeated Taylor Fritz in 5 sets
  • Janko Tipsarevic beat Sam Querrey to win his 1st match at a major in 3 years
  • Fernando Lopez beat Borna Coric when the youngster retired on serve 3-4 in the first set!
One of the notable matches of hte first round was the clash between Madison Keys and Alison Riske which ended a 1:48am when Keys came back from a set and a break down to win 4-6  7-6(5) 6-2. America's #1 male player Stevie Johnson was 2 sets and down 2-5 down before rallying to win a 3rd set tiebreak and the final two sets against Evgeny Donskoy.

Monday, August 29, 2016

2016 MTV VMA: Serena Williams Introduces Beyoncé

Serena Williams wore a pretty revealing outfit as she introduced a stunning performance by Beyoncé at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards held last night at Madison Square Garden. Beyoncé went on to win Video of the Year honors for "Formation" the lead single off her Lemondade visual album she released to wild acclaim this summer (and which featured Serena appearing in one scene.)

Serena's in New York City for the 2016 U.S. Open, which starts today.

EYE CANDY: Valton Jackson

Valton Jackson is an African-American dancer and actor. He is on Instagram (@valtonjackson), Facebook (@BuffSongBird1986) and has his own Tumblr page. He is today's Eye Candy. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: Jason Bourne

The Bourne movies (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Legacy, Jason Bourne) are a guilty pleasure of mine. The Other Half and I went to see the latest one (which is the fifth in the franchise but only the fourth one to feature Matt Damon as the titular character). We mostly did so because The Bourne Ultimatum is really quite a good movie (Th Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner is not.) Also, director Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy) is back on board, so we said "why not?"

The cast is surprisingly good, with Oscar-winners Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black,  No Country for Old Men) and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl) in addition to Vincent Cassell (Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Black Swan), Julia Stiles (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Riz Ahmed (HBO's The Night Of).

Sadly, the movie is not as good as its cast (59%/62% on rottentomatoes). I did not even recognize Vikander was the same actress who played the android in Ex Machina! (Maybe that's why she won an Oscar this year.) She was one of the best parts of the movie, and happily she has a huge role. Jones is playing the (cartoonishly corrupt) CIA Director and we find out more and more about the back story of Damon's Jason Bourne character. These are all fun and familiar aspects of a Bourne film.

However, it really was not a particular enjoyable cinematic experience. Greengrass is a kinetic, exciting director and it was this energetic style which brought him acclaim in his helming of the earlier films in the Bourne franchise. But, here it just seems frenetic and motion sickness-inducing. One aspect of Greengrass's direction which I did appreciate was that the final cut of scenes that were depicted in the trailer (like Damon knocking down a guy with one solid punch with his left hand and the scene where the CIA realizes that Bourne is back: "My god that's Jason Bourne!") are slightly (but noticeably) different. In other words, the best parts of the film which are sometimes given away in the trailer as an inducement to get the audience to fork over their cash to see the entire film, this time were still fresh. I'm sure Greengrass made this conscious decision and I appreciated it.

That being said, despite one of the most harrowing car chases ever put on film (take THAT, The French Connection) it is doubtful that Jason Bourne will be remembered as a success despite doing (relatively) well at the box-office. I will certainly think twice about going to see the next Bourne in the theaters, but I would happily watch it on cable.

Jason Bourne.
Director: Paul Greengrass.
Running Time: 123 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.
Release Date: July 29, 2016.
Viewing Date: August 7, 2016.

Writing: B+.
Acting: A-.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: B-.

OVERALL GRADE: B/B+ (3.16/4.0)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

2016 US OPEN: Men's and Women's Draw Released and Analyzed

The 2016 US OPEN draw has been released. 2015 US Open champion Flavia Pennetta has retired so she will not be defending her title. However, defending champion Novak Djokovic is seeded #1 this year as well. The draw has been released and the potential men's quarterfinal match ups are:
  • [1] Novak Djokovic versus [7] Marin Cilic
  • [4] Rafael Nadal versus [5] Milos Raonic
  • [3] Stan Wawrinka versus [8] Dominic Thiem 
  • [2] Andy Murray versus [6] Kei Nishikori
On the Women's side, the potential women's quarterfinal matches are:
  • [1] Serena Williams versus [5] Simona Halep
  • [4] Agnieska Radwanska versus [6] Venus Williams
  • [3] Garbine Muguruza versus [8] Madison Keys  
  • [2] Angelique Kerber versus [7] Roberta Vinci
Last year at this time Serena had won the last 4 majors in a row (i.e, the Serena Slam!) and was attempting to win her 22nd major and complete the first calendar year Grand Slam since 1988. In one of the great historic upsets in sports, she lost in the semifinals to Roberta Vinci, setting up an all-Italian major final with first-time major finalists that was won by Pennetta.

As usual, there are always some exciting first round matches. Here are the notable ones to look out for this year:
  • Serena Williams versus Ekaterina Makarova
  • Camilla Giorgi versus Sam Stosur
  • Taylor Townsend versus Caroline Wozniacki
  • Yulia Putintseva versus Sabine Lisicki
  • Sara Errani versus Shelby Rogers
  • John Isner versus Frances Tiafoe
  • Stan Wawrinka versus Fernando Verdasco
  • Gael Monfils versus Gilles Muller
  • Jack Sock versus Taylor Fritz
  • Janko Tipsarevic versus Sam Querrey
  • Fernando Lopez versus Borna Coric
I plan to attend the tournament myself next weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2016

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Katherine Johnson, Legendary NASA Mathematician, Turns 98 Today

Katherine Johnson is an African-American mathematician who is famous for contributing calculations to several landmark NASA missions. Johnson turns 98 today, and was awarded the National Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in November 2015. In May 2016, NASA named one of its buildings at the NASA Langley Research Center the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.
Johnson worked at Langley from 1953 until her retirement in 1986, beginning as a research mathematician -- part of a pool of women hired to perform mathematical equations and calculations by hand for engineers. She quickly distinguished herself and was permanently assigned to the branch that would later calculate the launch windows for NASA’s first Project Mercury flights. 
Notable accomplishments include her computation, by hand, of the launch window and trajectory for Alan Shepard’s maiden space voyage aboard Freedom 7 in 1961, and verification, also by hand, of calculations made by the first computers for John Glenn's history-making orbit around the Earth in 1962. She also calculated the trajectory for the historic Apollo 11 first moon landing flight in 1969.
In January 2017, a big-budget Hollywood movie titled Hidden Figures starring Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons based on the real-life story of Johnson and other Black women who worked for NASA will be released in theaters. See the trailer below:

Happy Birthday Katherine Johnson!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Although Children of Time  starts off relatively slowly (do we really need to read pages of exposition from the perspective of an alien?) things gets VERY real very quickly as there are certain shocking event that cause the trajectory of the story to ricochet in a very surprising direction.

I'm happy to say that I was completely unspoiled about many details of the story and thus was completely surprised and engrossed when the full ambitious scope of Tchaikovsky's novel slowly revealed itself. I have endeavored to keep those aspects of the story out of this review so that others can experience the book and enjoy it as much as I did, which was considerably.

Essentially Children of Time is two (very good!) science fiction books in one; The first book is about the events and people on an ark ship containing 500,000 frozen humans who are the last remnants of a devastated Earth and the decline of human civilization (somewhat reminiscent of Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora) and the other book is an uplift story with incredibly realistic descriptions of an authentically alien culture (reminiscent of Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky and David Brin's The Uplift War) developing into a formidable civilization.

Time is a key component of the story (hence the title), as we follow multiple generations of the aliens as they evolve and their culture slowly develops technology. On the ship a great deal of time also passes, with the use of cold sleep allowing the audience's main characters to avoid most of the effects of time's arrow but the story follows multiple generations of descendants of the original ship's crew and defrosted cargo.

Much of the compelling nature of Children of Time is based around the reader's connection to the fate of humanity and the skill with which the author has presented the alien culture so that when the inevitable clash between the two factions occurs it is difficult for the reader to know who to root for! (The ending is pretty surprising, even if the resolution of the conflict is a tad too neat to be completely satisfying. But this is a minor quibble after spending nearly 600 pages engrossed with these characters and situations.)

Overall, Children of Time is an incredibly original, intensely compelling, standalone novel of hard science fiction which is an instant classic in the grand tradition of other memorable (and award-winning) works like Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky and Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves.

Title: Children of Time.
Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Paperback: 600 pages.
Date Published: June 4, 2015.
Date Read: August 8, 2016.

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Cilic Wins Cincy; Serena Will Tie Graf's #1 Record; Stevie Is A Top; #Santina Splits

2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic became only the fifth player since 2010 other than the Big Four (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal) to win an ATP Masters shield event by beating Murray 7-5 6-4. The other four are Robin Soderling (Paris 2010),  David Ferrer (Paris 2012), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Toronto 2014), Stan Wawrinka (Monte-Carlo 2014). Murray was hoping to continue his 22-match winning streak after triumphing at the 2016 Wimbledon championships and 2016  Rio Olympics this summer. Not only was this Cilic's first Masters 1000 win, it was the first time he had even reached the semifinal of a masters in 8 previous tries.

By Angelique Kerber losing in straight sets to Karolina Pliskova in the Cincinnati Final, World #1 Serena Williams will remain at #1 for three more weeks and tie Steffi Graf's record of 186 consecutive weeks at #1. However, to break the record Serena will probably need to win the 2016 US Open (which would also simultaneously surpass Graf's major singles title haul of 22) because she is defending semifinal points from the 2015 US Open and none of her rivals: Garbine Muguruza, Agnieska Radwanska or Kerber have very many points to defend. Theoretically any of these four could conceivably be #1 on Monday September 12th. The most exciting scenario would have Serena and Kerber facing off for the #1 ranking in the final.

Fresh off of winning the Men's Doubles Bronze medal with partner Jack Sock (who also won the Mixed Doubles Gold with Bethanie Mattek-Sands) Stevie Johnson is now the highest ranked male American player by reaching the #21 spot on the ATP rankings while John Isner (who had been the top-ranked American since July 2013) fell to #22 with Sock at #28 and Giant-Killer Sam Querrey at #31.  This also means that there i no American male in the Top 20 of the ATP World rankings while on the women's side there are three American women in the Top 10: Serena (#1), Venus Williams (#6), Madison Keys (#9).

During the Rio Olympics it was confirmed that despite winning 3 grand slam titles, the 2015 Year-end championships and a 41-match winning streak in the last 18 month, the doubles team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have decided to split up. (They have agreed to play the 2016 year-end championships together, having already qualified!) Awkwardly, the two former partners faced each other in the very first tournament after the Olympics in the Cincinnati finals, and the team of Mirza and Coco Vandeweghe defeated Hingis with Barbora Strycova.

The seeds for the U.S. OPEN have been revealed, and the only notable absences are 2015 Champion Flavia Pennetta who retired soon afterwards, Victoria Azarenka who is pregnant. On the men's side Roger Federer (is missing the rest of 2016 with injury) and Tomas Berdych has appendicitis.

Monday, August 22, 2016

EYE CANDY: Daniel Tamayo Zapata

Daniel Tamayo Zapata is another hottie I found on Instagram (@danieltamayozapata). According to his Facebook page, he is from Medellin, Colombia. Unfortunately, I don't have any other information about him. If you do, let me know in the comments!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 CINCY: Pliskova Denies Kerber's Bid For #1 Ranking

Angelique Kerber is having an amazing year. She has reached two major finals (2016 Australian Open and 2016 Wimbledon and won one of them). She also reached the Gold medal match of the 2016 Rio Olympics, losing to Monica Puig.

However, today was not one of them. She was two sets away from ending Serena Williams near-record 183-weeks-long hold on the #1 ranking on the WTA tour but was blown off the court in the finals of the 2016 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati  by Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova, who has a surprisingly tepid 5-9 record in tour finals, was able to play calm, powerful tennis to win in straight sets, 6-3 6-1.

With her loss Kerber will remain #2 and guarantees that Serena Williams will be #1 for 3 more weeksm thus tying Steffi Graf's record of 186 consecutive weeks at #1. Analysis shows that if both Kerber and Serena reach the women's final on Saturday September 10th, the winner will be the new #1.

N.K. Jemisin Becomes First Black Woman To Win Hugo Award for Best Novel

Wow! Defying the predictions of most prognosticators, Nora Jemisin was the surprise winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Fifth Season. (See my A-/B+ review.) By my reckoning, Jemisin win is historic for multiple reasons: she's the first Black woman (and first Black person) to win science fiction's most prestigious award. And she did it after two years of intense debate (most of it online) in the speculative fiction community about the meaning, necessity and importance of diversity in the speculative fiction community. She also did it despite being nominated for (and losing) the Nebula award to Naomi Novik's Uprooted.

This is how The Guardian placed this year's awards in context with the ongoing Puppy fracas:
As in previous years, there had been attempts by two separate groups, the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, to “game” the awards in favour of their preferred slates of works. Both groups claimed that science fiction has become dominated by a liberal, left-wing bias. 
The Hugos are voted on by those who purchase an attending or supporting membership to either the current or previous Worldcon events. Eligible voters can tick the “No Award” box if they don’t agree with any of the shortlisted works, a tool which has been used to block out Puppies recommendations previously. In 2015, five No Awards were given, including for the prestigious best novella and best short story categories; an unprecedented number, as No Award had only been presented as many times in the entire history of the prize, which began in 1953. 
In contrast, this year there were only two No Awards, in the smaller best related work and best fan-cast categories.
However one of the key ironies (also noted by The Guardian) in Jemisin's win is that the primary rabble-rouser of the rabid puppies, Theodore Beale (a.k.a. Vox Day) had previously been expelled from the Science Fiction Writers Association after he called Jemisin an "educated but ignorant savage." The group of Rabid Puppies has been trying to destroy the Hugo awards, by exerting undue influence over the nominations and winners but Jemisin becoming the first Black woman to win the top prize is the clearest repudiation of the recent actions of Beale's Puppies to "make science fiction great again."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 RIO OLYMPICS: Usain Bolt Completes Triple-Triple (9 Gold Medals In 3 Olympics)

Usain Bolt of Jamaica proved (again) that he is one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time by winning his 9th Gold medal on Friday, anchoring his country's 4x100m Olympics relay team to a 3rd consecutive win. Bolt earlier won the Olympics 100m for the 3rd time (in a time of 9.81s) and the Olympics 200m for the 3rd time (in a time of 19.78s).

Bolt is tied with American Carl Lewis and Finland's Paavo Nurmi for the most gold medals in track and field. Of course, American swimmer Michael Phelps has the most Gold medals (23!) of any Olympic athlete (plus 2 silver and 3 bronze).

Monday, August 15, 2016

2016 RIO OYLYMPICS: Murray Outlasts Del Potro For 2nd Gold; Nishikori Beats Nadal For Bronze

The tennis is complete at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Great Britain Andy Murray became the first player to defend his singles Gold medal (from the 2012 London Olympics) by outlasting a spirited challenge from 2012 Bronze medalist Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in a four-hour 7-5 4-6 6-2 7-5 victory. Del Potro had beaten 2008 Gold medalist Rafael Nadal and World #1 Novak Djokovic in two very high quality matches (featuring three tiebreaks all won by the Argentine) to reach this point. Nadal captured the Rio Olympics Gold medal in men's doubles with his longtime friend Marc Lopez. But Nadal was unable to win a medal in singles when Kei Nishikori of Japan defeated him in 3 sets in the Bronze medal match 6-2 6-7(1) 6-3.

Venus Williams became the first tennis player to win 5 Olympic medals when she earned a silver medal in the Mixed Doubles with partner Rajeev Ram as they lost to another American duo: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock. Sock won a Bronze medal in men;s doubles by partnering with Stevie Johnson, defeating his usual doubles partnerVasek Pospisil of Canada (partnering with Daniel Nestor) along the way. Both Venus and Serena have four Gold medals (3 doubles together and 1 singles each).

EYE CANDY: Toyin Koyejo

Toyin Koyejo is a model of Nigerian descent who lives in Los Angeles and New York City (according to PopGlitz). Toyin has social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram (@shirtlesssinger) and Twitter (@shirtlesssinger). However, even with all this information I don't know Toyin's age, height or weight (although he is referred to as 26 in articles published on the web in 2011).

Sunday, August 14, 2016

2016 RIO OLYMPICS: Puig Wins Singles Gold Over Kerber; Kvitova Beats Keys For Bronze

Monica Puig of Puerto Rico pulled off one of the incredible upsets in sports by defeating not one or two major champions but three on her way to winning the women's singles Gold Medal in Rio. Puig, rated in the mid 90s at the beginning of the year defeated 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, 2-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 2016 Australian Open champ Angie Kerber.

By winning the Gold medal match 6-4 4-6 6-2, Puig won the very first Gold medal for Puerto Rico. Kvitova won the Bronze medal match by outlasting American Madison Keys 7-5 2-6 6-2.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

2016 RIO OLYMPICS: Murray Faces Del Potro(!) In Gold Medal Match

Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion and 2012 bronze medalist, is playing some of his best tennis in years. After dismissing World #1 Novak Djokovic in the very first round, the tall, gentle Argentine outlasted 2008 Gold medalist Rafael Nadal iof Spain n the semifinals, winning a 3rd set tiebreaker. He becomes the first player in the last five years to defeat Djokovic and Nadal in the same tournament.

Del Potro will face 2012 Gold medalist Andy Murray who defeated Kei Nishikori in the other semifinal. Nishikori escaped a 2-6 3rd set tiebreak deficit (4 match points!) to beat Gael Monfils in the previous round. Murray will be vying to be the first man to defend the singles Gold medal while Del Potro is trying to win his 3rd match against a member of the Big Four in the same tournament.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

QUEER QUOTE: DNC Joint Statement On Trump/Rubio Appearance In Orlando Near Pulse Nighclub

MadProfessah took this picture in Columbus, Ohio on August 2, 2016
The worst mass shooting in United States history happened just under two months ago (June 12, 2016) in Orlando Florida, at a gay nightclub called Pulse. Today Senator Marcos Rubio and GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump are 10 miles from the site of the shooting, both attending a virulently anti-LGBT event called "Rediscovering God in America." The DNC Chair Donna Brazile and DNC LGBT Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes could not let this pass without commentary, which is today's Queer Quote:
"Instead of honoring the memory of those we lost at Pulse two months ago, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio have come to Orlando to headline a gathering of some of the nation’s most incendiary anti-gay bigots. We at the DNC join all people of good conscience in expressing our solidarity with the Orlando LGBT community as they continue to grieve the deadliest shooting in American history. We suggest Trump and Rubio disavow these anti-gay extremists who have likened gay people to Nazis and characterized HIV/AIDS as divine ‘penalties' for being gay. Failing to do so will be yet another example of the utter lack of judgment that makes Trump unfit to serve."
This blog post is not an endorsement or non-endorsement of any political candidate but is my (first-amendment protected) commentary on the appropriateness of major political figures attending an event organized by virulent homophobes so close (in time and space) to the site of the Pulse nightclub massacre where literally dozens and dozens of LGBT individuals were killed.

BOOK REVIEW: The Fifth Season (Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

I almost gave up on N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season while reading the first fifty pages but, encouraged by the extremely positive reviews (rated over 4.3/5 by 7500+ people on Goodreads) and widespread critical acclaim (nominated for multiple awards like the Nebula and Locus) I persisted, and I'm very glad that I did. (This was not the case with Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which I gave up on rather quickly several years ago, and I don't regret that decision. That being said, having previously given up on a book of hers probably made me want to give The Fifth Season the benefit of the doubt. That and the fact that she, like me,  is on the side of the good guys in the Puppy brouhaha over representation in speculative fiction.)

The story follows three characters, Damaya, Essun and Syenite as they navigate their lives in a world which is accustomed to regular cataclysmic disasters, called a "Season." The world has gone through four of these events so far (each of which has been slightly different) and when the story begins it's not that obvious if the current situation is bad enough to be a fifth Season or not. The occurrence of catastrophes is so regular that the populace is always on edge, and prepared to flee at a moment's notice.

Related to the fact that earthquakes (called "shakes" in the book) occur so often is the existence of orogenes, people who have the power to manipulate the energy found in nature around them to move objects, freeze or heat the air and generally disrupt the world around them. One side effect is that without control, an orogene can remove all the energy from the volume of space "near" them, which can be fatal to anyone too close to the orogene. For this reason they are feared and hated by most civilized people, and hunted and controlled by another group called Guardians.

By following the stories of a young inexperienced orogene (Damaya), a mid-level orogene (Syenite) and an older, experienced orogene (Essun) the reader gets a multifaceted view of Jemisin's society, which is engrossing and diverse. The book is told via interspersed chapters following Damaya, Syenite and Essun (similar to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and James S.A. Corey's The Expanse.)
I particularly liked Damaya's story the most and particularly looked forward to reading her chapters. I also appreciated the inclusion of an openly gay main character in the book (and there's a bisexual character and a transgender character that play pivotal roles later on). I was not prepared for the somewhat explicit sexuality between these characters, but it was handled well, and it was a plus for me. There is also clear descriptions of hair and body types which make it clear that the vast majority of the characters in The Fifth Season would be racialized as non-white in our world. And that gives me another way to connect with the book. That being said, although I was very interested to see where the story goes I was not actually enthralled with the book as a whole--it misses some elements (humor, suspense, wonder, that "wow" factor), but it is a well-written and intriguing read.

Overall, I'm glad I read The Fifth Season and I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in the The Broken Earth trilogy. The second book, The Obelisk Gate, is coming out next week, Tuesday August 16, 2016. (You can read the first chapter for free!)

Title: The Fifth Season.
N.K. Jemisin.
Paperback: 468 pages.
Date Published: August 4, 2015.
Date Read: January 26, 2016.

GOODREADS RATING: **** (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.58/4.0).


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

2016 RIO OLYMPICS: Djokovic, Serena, Venus, Aga, Muguruza All Out Of Olympics Early

The Rio Olympics have been beset by shocking upsets. All four #1 seeds (in Men's singles, Women's singles, Men's doubles and Women's doubles) have lost early! Novak Djokovic lost 2 tight tiebreak sets against 2012 bronze medalist Juan Martin del Potro in the first round of play on Sunday.

World #1 and defending Gold medallist Serena Williams lost in straight sets 6-4 6-3 to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, revealing what appears to be a troubling shoulder injury (she had 5 double faults in one service game!) The other defending Gold medalist Andy Murray is still in the tournament, as is 2008 Champion Rafael Nadal.

The women's quarterfinals are set, and the only major champions remaining in the draw are Petra Kvitova (who faces Svitolina) and Angelique Kerber (who faces Johanna Konta of Great Britain). American Madison Keys is only two matches away from playing for a medal, and she would have to beat Daria Kasatkina and then the Kerber/Konta winner to do so.

In doubles, both the Murray brothers and the Williams sisters lost their first round match.

Monday, August 08, 2016

EYE CANDY: Daniel Norell (reprise)

Daniel Norrell has appeared as Eye Candy (at least) once before (December 14, 2009). In addition to being a smoking hot model, Norell is also a photographer in his own right. He also is a musical artist. He is on Instagram (@smashbugge) and Twitter (@badboynorrell) and has his own blog. He apparently lives in Sweden.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: Finding Dory

Finding Nemo is one of my favorite Pixar films (and is also beloved by a lot of other people) so I have been psyched ever since the sequel Finding Dory was announced way back in 2013. The husband and I went with a couple of friends (all gay, average age over 50) to see the film on opening day, at the Arclight Pasadena. (I have gotten out of the habit of writing my reviews of films immediately after seeing them so that is the explanation for the delay in this post.)

Finding Dory is an excellent sequel to Finding Nemo. (Actually a fair amount of the story takes place in a timeline before the events of Nemo so in some sense it is also a prequel.) The main characters are all anthropomorphic fish: Dory (played by Ellen Degeneres), a blue tang fish who suffers from the inability to maintain memories of most events for more than a minute, the inquisitive and adventurous Nemo, and his overprotective dad Marlin (played by Albert Brooks). Nemo was about Dory helping Marlin find Nemo who went exploring and got lost. Dory is about Dory finally realizing that she has gotten lost, and is trying to get back to her parents. In the course of events, Dory gets separated from Marlin and Nemo and so they spend a good deal of the movie having harrowing adventures trying to reunite with their friend, whose well-being they are quite worried about, because of her memory deficiency.

One of the best parts of Dory is the new character of Hank (played by Modern Family's Ed O'Neill), a chameleonic octopus who tries to take advantage of Dory as his meal ticket out of a marine life facility where Dory finds herself. It's amazing to watch the contortions that the octopus (and the script!) take to get our water-logged friends across vast stretches of dry land and around corners and into locked rooms. When the octopus starts to drive a truck, you know things have gotten way out of hand! But it makes for an action-filled, PG-rated night at the movies which is a whole bunch of fun, and well worth seeing more than once.

Finding Dory.
Director: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane.
Running Time: 97 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild thematic elements.
Release Date: June 17, 2016.
Viewing Date: June 17, 2016.

Writing: A.
Acting: A-.
Visuals: A.
Impact: A-.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.84/4.0)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

2016 RIO OLYMPICS: 5 of Top 10 Not In Men's Draw; Venus and Serena in Same Half

The Rio Olympics has begun and half of the ATP top 10 is not there: Switzerland's Roger Federer (out with injury for 6 months) and Stan Wawrinka, Canada's Milos Raonic, Czechia's Tomas Berdych and Dominc Thiem of Austria. Rafael Nadal is playing all three events in Rio, but he is coming off a wrist injury which caused him to withdraw from Roland Garros and skip Wimbledon.

World #1 Novak Djokovic and World #2 Andy Murray are in Rio with Nadal. Murray was selected to be hold his country's flag in the opening ceremony. He is the defending champion, having won the Gold Medal match against Roger Federer at the 2012 London Olympics. Juan Martin del Potro won Bronze by defeating Djokovic, whom he faces in the first round here. Nadal is in Djokovic's half of the draw.

On the women's side, the draw has placed Venus and Serena in the top half together. The potential quarterfinals are: Serena versus Petra Kvitova (or Caroline Wozniacki), Garbine Muguruza versus Venus, Madison Keys versus Radwanska and Angelique Kerber versus Johanna Konta (or Sveta Kuznetsova).

Monday, August 01, 2016

EYE CANDY: Randy Bowden, Jr.

Randy Bowden, Jr. is a native of Alabama (according to PopGlitz) with social media presences on Twitter (@TheRandyB), Instagram (@RandyBowdenJr) and Snapchat (RandyBowdenJr). I don't have age, height or weight information but from unverified information on the web he was 24 years old in 2014 and is 6-foot-1.


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