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Stuff from my time off

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 2, 2014

Besides family activities, including a trip to Virginia for Christmas, I have not been completely removed from pop culture.

Have been doing some reading, in a scattershot way. Matt Zoller Seitz's "The Wes Anderson Collection," for one, which I am going through carefully; lots to digest, including Anderson's many "Hmmm"s and lavish illustration. But I wish every filmmaker was the subject of a book like this, with a highly detail-oriented interviewer probing the body of work. Colum McCann's * "Dancer," his consideration of Nureyev, which is dazzlingly written. and I am reading in tandem with "Anderson." And possibly in triple form, since I also dipped into Reza Aslan's "Zealot." about Jesus, and it has me wanting to keep going.

(And yes, I at times read several books at once. Sometimes, I can be deliberately linear, working through one book before starting the next. In fact, I made a point of finishing a novel I had borrowed from the library before digging into my Christmas pile. But other times, I like to shift around. Sort of like eating different parts of the same meal instead of just working through course-by-course.)

Shorter reading included a Dana Stabenow e-story (and I am gliding through her collection of Alaska travel columns) and Nick Hornby's "Everyone's Reading Bastard," a sharply funny e-sketch. (I have used the Amazon links but got my copies through

On deck: other McCann, Robert Hilburn's Johnny Cash biography and more.

The bride and I went to see "American Hustle," which I expect to talk about at greater length at some point. In brief, the performances are terrific but the movie is no more than good, too stretched out and rambling in places. To me, it's David O. Russell's "Casino," for all those reasons, and its focus on trust and betrayal. I have been trying to work out a binding theory about Christian Bale being DeNiro and Bradley Cooper being Pesci, but that may need some fine-tuning.

Watched the "Doctor Who" transition episode, and again, sprawling but uneven. The best walk-off point would have been Smith's Doctor telling Clara that he got to save her and that was a last victory. Still, it was touching in places, especially with the Doctor rooted to Christmas, and I was ready for Capaldi's arrival the moment it was announced.

Watched "Love Actually" again, of course.

Watched some football, delightedly during the first half of Duke vs. Texas A&M, much less so in the second half. Manziel is hugely talented but I don't like him. And if he comes to the Browns, he is going to need quality in the o-line and the receiving corps, and he will face much more fierce defenses. (That being said, I was also convinced that LeBron James would get a rude welcome in the NBA and he more than measured up._

Binge-watched four episodes of "Downton Abbey." More on fhat later.

*I became interested in his work while writing an advance on his appearance at the Akron library.

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