Difficult Men

When I began my new job, I started spending more time in the car driving to work.  I realized I needed to maximize all possible reading time in order to have a hope of finishing my 100 books in 2014.  The solution? Audiobooks.  Listening to a book on CD is a very different reading experience than visually reading a printed book or e-book.  I can’t flip ahead, or even get spoiled by accidentally reading further along on the page. I’m at the mercy of the pace of the narrator, but it’s a great way to challenge my brain to pay attention a little differently.


I chose Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin as my first audiobook experiment because it caught my eye on the audiobook cart at the library.  I was going on a drive to Arkansas the next day and I wanted to be prepared for the drive with listening material.  Last year I read Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, a book on the same topic.  I loved reading the stories behind such popular TV shows, even ones I had never watched (and never plan to watch, like the Sopranos) and was interested to learn more from Difficult Men.

Where The Revolution Was Televised explored the background of a number of tv shows, Difficult Men focused specifically on the male creators and showrunners of tv dramas from what Martin calls the Third Golden Age of television.  Martin writes about the complicated lives of tv writers like David Chase, David Simon, Ed Burns, David Milch, and Alan Ball and the stories they all told through their shows.  Needless to say, a lot of drama went into making all of their dramas.

I really like reading about television.  I also enjoy watching television, just not the television this book talks about.  I haven’t seen The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, or Breaking Bad.  I don’t really plan on watching any of those shows, except maybe The Wire.  I just don’t have the emotional space to watch all those dark, upsetting dramas.  I don’t need to watch hours of those shows to know it would be too much for me.  But reading about those shows and how they were created? That I can do: reading about these shows doesn’t have the same emotional weight and I learn so much about the creative process.  Also, many of these shows have become such pop cultural touchstones that I want to have a rudimentary knowledge of their stories.  Listening to Difficult Men was an excellent way to learn more.

Difficult Men, Brett Martin, 4-stars, tv history

Difficult Men

What I’m Into: January and February 2013 Edition

I have strange taste in things. Perhaps eclectic might be a better word? In any case, I’ve been wanting to keep better track of what I have liked, what I have enjoyed, what I’m into.  I follow many blogs, and a couple of my favorites do “what I’m into posts” (Leigh Kramer and Sarah Bessey) and I’m trying to follow in their style with the things that I enjoy.
What I'm Into January February 2013


My favorite new and currently airing shows that I watch every week are Bones, Castle, White Collar, and Big Bang Theory. My if-I-have-time shows that I tend to watch in spurts are New Girl (there’s really only so much “quirky” I can take), and Once Upon a Time (loved the first season on netflix, second season isn’t on at a convenient time so I don’t always remember to watch). I’ve also been catching up on 30 Rock and the Office so I can enjoy their final seasons.
My current netflix favorite is the West Wing, which is the worst, meaning it’s the best. I also occasionally enjoy Hart of Dixie, because boy I love the South.
For a couple days in February, I was home sick a couple days, so I went back to my forever favorite Chuck, on DVD. I. Love. That. Show.
Let’s face it, I really like televison shows. I’ve talked about my appreciation for television before, and my thoughts really haven’t changed. It’s just such a great medium to experience when my brain is overwhelmed by all the other information and feelings that stick to me throughout every day.


I read the most when I’m traveling. Over the last two and a half years, I’ve poured so much into my job and other endeavors that the effort of reading as much as I used to was too much.  I’ve been trying to bring my reading habit back, but it was nice to travel for a week in January to get a head start on my goal of reading 50 books in 2013. The best I’ve read in January were Seven, America’s Women, and The Revolution Was Televised, all of which I read in Mexico. Seven was challenging, America’s Women was historical and upsetting, and The Revolution Was Televised was fascinating.  I recommend all three,  but I can’t think of anyone who would be simultaneously interested in Christian sacrificial living, history and women, and televised drama of the 90’s and 00’s besides me.
In February, I traveled again, this time to Florida. Because of reasons, I was not quite on my normal level of vacation reading, but I did finish some excellent books. I sometimes like comic books and I always like Firefly, so I enjoyed the first installment of a Firefly comic called Serenity: Those Left Behind. Next I finished The Name of the Star, which was hilarious, fantastical, and set in London. Does it get much better than that in young adult literature? The just-released sequel The Madness Underneath is sitting at my bedside, begging me to read it, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Lastly, I read Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran. I’m a sucker for memoirs, particularly about women in the Middle East.
I really hoped to read Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith on my trip to Florida, even buying it so that I could conquer it on vacation. Aaaaand I got a couple chapters in, and then accidentally left it on the plane. I hope someone who needed to relearn the essentials of faith picked it up. I think that’s the first thing I’ve ever left on a plane. Just glad it wasn’t the work iPad.
As always, I have a giant stack of books next to my bed that always hope to get read, but rarely do. At the top of that pile right now are Brain on Fire, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life, and Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America. We’ll see if those or any others get read anytime soon.


The last movies I watched in the theater were The Hobbit and Les Miserables in December. I can’t think of any new movies I’ve seen this year–any movies I’ve watched have been repeats, like She’s the Man or Sleepless in Seattle. I am not a movie person as I am a TV person.


With the recent demise of my laptop, I lost all of my music (among other things). I have since been trying to discover new music. Well, new to me music. I often find tunes that I think are awesome, not to discover that everyone has been listening to it for months. I don’t care, I like what I like whether people like it or not. I always cannot always explain what it is I like, I just like it.
My first discoveries/purchases of the year were Imagine Dragons and the Lumineers. These bands were my primary musical entertainment while visiting my sister in Mexico. More recently, though, another me band was recommended to me, Local Natives. When I first learned of them,they had just released a new album, so I had a lot of music to experience. Upon first listen, it sounded so familiar, even though I’m certain I had never intentionally listened to them before. I eventually discovered that one song played in an episode of my beloved show Chuck. Hence, these two albums have been played on repeat a lot since I learned about them.
The Civil Wars have put out a new album of sorts in the form of the soundtrack to a new documentary called Place at the Table. Guys. It’s folk instrumental that sounds like the South. It’s like it was made JUST for my hidden love-the-South-and-all-its-weirdness side. If I knew how to share a Spotify playlist, I would. But since I don’t know and I don’t care enough to find out, just search for it. It’s good. Now I need to see that movie.
I’m going to a Muse concert on Sunday–I had forgotten how much I liked this band. So, in anticipation of this concert, I’m listening to some of their more recent albums that never made it on my radar.


Another thing that I love is podcasts. It can be difficult to find a truly good podcast. It has to update consistently, have great content, and more. The best podcast I’ve found lately has been Pop Culture Happy Hour from NPR. It’s four NPR writers, talking about pop culture every week. And not sugary gossipy pop culture, no, NERDY pop culture. Just listening to them talk about all the things happening in music, movies, tv, etc, while using words that make them sound like they swallowed a dictionary makes me feel smarter.  Also, every week they have a segment entitled “What’s Making Me Happy This Week” in which each member shares a pop culture-y thing that is making them happy. Listen, it’s great. It’s a thing that’s made me happy for longer than a week.