Life Movies TV

My favorite TV shows, movies, and music* of 2023

*Also: favorite goal and save! Read on…

Following my post on the standout books I read this year, here’s the best of what I watched and listened to in 2023:

📺 TV

— “Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street” (Netflix) This documentary series reinforced for me not just how shocking his crimes were, but how much his victims suffered.

— “Wham!” (Netflix) George Michael, Andrew Ridgeley, 80s pop music. What more do you need to know?

— “Beckham” (Netflix) An entertaining recap of David Beckham’s career, including the meme-spawning scene (YouTube link) with wife Victoria in which he presses her to admit that she enjoyed an advantaged upbringing.

— “Better Call Saul.” (AMC/Netflix) Though this series ended in 2022, I’m including it here since I finished it this year. A superb show that rivals even the great “Breaking Bad,” from which it was spun off.

🎥 Movies

“Oppenheimer.” Of course. Sprawling, ambitious, polished. Incredible soundscapes. Moves along crisply despite its three-hour length.

🎸 Music

The Hold Steady, “The Price of Progress.” Soaring rock anthems. (YouTube link)

Runner up: Buck Meek, “Haunted Mountain.” I’m in love with the title track (YouTube link).

⚽️ BONUS 1: Best Goal of the Year

As an Arsenal fan, I have to pick Bukayo Saka’s long-range stunner in a 3-2 win against Manchester United in January. (YouTube link)

🧤BONUS 2: And as a (gracefully aging) goalkeeper, I admired Aaron Ramsdale’s dive high to his right to save a deflected Mohamed Salah shot in a 2-2 Arsenal draw against Liverpool. (YouTube link) (Amazingly, Ramsdale’s now out of the side, but that’s a story for another time. Did I mention I’m an Arsenal fan?)


Introducing Dossett Shanti Purnell

👶 I am so happy to tell you that Anasuya and I had a baby boy, Dossett Shanti Purnell, in February.

He is named for my great-grandfather, Dossett, and Anasuya’s grandfather, Shanti, the Sanskrit word for peace.

Dossett weighed a hefty 8.6 pounds at birth and measured 21 inches long.

He is healthy.

He is growingly quickly.

And so far he is proving to be a total delight: sleeps soundly, eats voraciously, and is a ton of fun.

We are so, so happy.

Oh, and yes: Ginger adores him. 🤗

Book Notes Life

Book Notes: ‘The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living,’ by Russ Harris

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris

From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited recently after many years.

These posts are meant to help me remember what I’ve learned, and to point out titles I think are worth consulting.

They’re neither formal book reviews nor comprehensive book summaries, but I hope you find them useful. For previous postings, see my Book Notes category.

This is a writeup I’ve been meaning to post for some time. I have consulted this book many times over the years and have drawn a lot from it.

It’s not a new book, having been published in 2008, but I find its lessons to be timeless.

Book Notes: ‘The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT.’

Published: 2008
Publisher: Trumpeter
ISBN-10: 1590305841
Amazon link

Brief summary:

Don’t think of “happiness” as it’s commonly understood, which is “feeling good.”

Instead, think of being happy as living a rich, meaningful life in accordance with your values.

My 3 key takeaways:

  1. Homo Sapiens’ brains have not evolved to make us “happy,” or to produce a constant stream of pleasurable sensations. Our brains have evolved to keep us from getting killed. In the modern world, that threat is less a tiger lurking behind tall grass, waiting to pounce, but rather other perils: falling sick, encountering difficulties on the job, or suffering from declining social status.
  2. Don’t believe in fairy tales, such as the notion that things should end “happily ever after.” In truth, we have little control over our emotions and thoughts — but that’s okay. Thoughts are just words that run through our heads. Emotions are like the weather: they’re always changing. The mind (the neutral, “observing self”) is like the sky: it’s always there, regardless of thoughts or emotions.
  3. What is the “happiness trap” referred to in the title? It’s thinking that happiness means “feeling good.” Rather than making ourselves miserable chasing positive sensations — and trying to resist negative ones — we must understand that real happiness means living a meaningful life. And what is a meaningful life? It’s when our actions are in line with our most important values.

My notes and notable quotations:

  • The book is a blend of mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, and even what might be considered Buddhist philosophy. It is based on a form of therapy pioneered by psychologist Steven C. Hayes called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT (pronounced “Act”), which is designed to create “psychological flexibility.” (It strikes me that it’s a combination of Western-style focus on what we as individuals want out of the world, and an Buddhist-style focus on detachment.)
  • “If we live a full life, we will feel a full range of human emotions.” (P. 5)
  • There are six principles for dealing with thoughts and emotions:
    • Defusion: disconnecting from our thoughts, and not fusing with them. For example, if you are ruminating, try thinking: “I notice I’m having the thought that…” This will give you a sort of psychological distance from the thought, providing relief.
    • Expansion: making room for our emotions, not fighting them.
    • Connection: being present in the here and now.
    • The observing self: the part of us that is “pure awareness.”
    • Values: discovering and staying true to what’s important over our lifetimes. These aren’t goals, but ways of acting.
    • Committed action: taking steps to act in accordance with your values.
  • Hayes summarizes what ACT teaches us in this way: We must accept thoughts and feelings and be present, connect with our values, and take effective action. “So here is the happiness trap in a nutshell: to find happiness, we try to avoid or get rid of bad feelings, but the harder we try, the more bad feelings we create.” (P. 27)
  • “Success in life means living according to your values.” (P. 221). Values aren’t goals, which can accomplished and checked off a list. They’re “leading principles” for your life.” Or, “how we want to be, what we want to stand for.”

Happy New Year!

Received via WhatsApp forward.

Onward and upward, friends!


Val Kilmer: ‘God wants us to walk, but the devil sends a limo’

Val Kilmer gum

That is just one the many memorable lines from onetime Hollywood hunk Val Kilmer in this winding and revelatory profile by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in the New York Times Magazine. Highly recommended.


Merry Christmas from New Delhi

Best wishes from me, Anasuya, and Ginger*!

*Yes, Ginger is wearing a Christmas-themed sweater. Not only is it stylish, but it is functional, with temperatures dipping down into the low 40s Fahrenheit these days!

India Life

Two Years with Our Adopted New Delhi Street Dog, Ginger

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Last week – November 4 – marked two years since we adopted Ginger.

She continues to be a delight. She is clever, loyal, playful, energetic, silly, and sometimes slightly devious. And she definitely loves her long walks.

The photo at the top is from a Lodhi Garden trip. She loves that place. Here’s another pic of her there:

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And here she is at rest in the sun at home:

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One of her most endearing traits is her love of pouncing. Here’s a video of her hopping on me when I called her recently! 🙂

Dogs: What would life be without them?


  • One Year with our Adopted New Delhi Street Dog, Ginger
  • Introducing our Desi Dog, Ginger

  • Categories

    Ginger Snapshot: ‘I Got the Morning Papers for You!”

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    The latest shenanigans from Ginger.

    Do I detect a bit of a smile in that second photo?

    I believe I do.

    Humor Life

    Starbucks Misspellings: New One for My Collection


    Received this gem here in New Delhi yesterday and after consulting my collection…I’m happy to say: yes! It’s a new one!


    Who knew having an uncoventional name, combined with a love for coffee, could be so much fun? 🙂

    India Life

    Merry Christmas from New Delhi

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    I hope your holiday was full of food, friends, family, and festivities.

    Ginger got a candy cane dog toy, which, because she is a #PowerChewer, lasted all of ten minutes!