Thursday, July 31, 2008

On the Nightstand

Vacation afforded me the time for some solid reading. Some thoughts on some recently finished books:

In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Pollan's follow-up to his excellent The Omnivore's Dilemma is a fine read, but with maybe a tad too much overlap with the previous book. That niggle aside, the book is a very well-told account of how what we eat in this country has changed so much over the past fifty years. Pollan's simple advice, which frames and serves as the backbone of the book is simple and clear and eminently logical and right - it's exactly how I should eat. Eat food - that is real food that your great-grandmother would recognize, and not chemical-laden processed food. Mostly plants. Sure. Not too much. Goes without saying. The sad truth, of course, is that I know that I simply could not eat like this - as much as I want to have the devotion to put the effort in (it takes more effort to find and cook real food) to do it. So, in the end, this book made me sad.

The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta
The first novel of Perrota's I've read, although I've seen Election and Little Children, both based on Perrotta novels. I like his writing, and he has a good grasp on the mildly affluent New Jersey suburbs he's set the novel in, a world I grew up and now live in, but, as I find is the case with a lot of contemporary literary fiction, there is simply no real ending. Here, it's especially egregious, since he sets up a soccer final game at which the two opposing sides will battle and that ends the novel before the game. Very odd. Very frustrating. Still, he does a great job of getting into the heads of the Christian Right and their antagonists, and while it's always crystal clear where his sympathies lie, he manages to paint a pretty, in the end, sympathetic portrait of his main religious character as well, while making sure to paint his secular protagonist pretty harshly as well.

The Android's Dream - John Scalzi
Scalzi can write like the Dickens, and has as fertile an imagination as any writer I can think of, piling clever new realities and concepts on top of each other as fast as he can. But his characters are sometimes dismayingly paper-thin, and his plots can get a little overcomplex for my poor tired head. Still, I like the good in him enough to keep reading.

Daredevil - Ed Brubaker
After finally catching up on Bendis' run, after reading the issues several years back and falling away, I've been able ot read the first three trades of Brubaker's still-going run. A big fan of Brubaker's excellent Captain America run, I was expecting to like his Daredevil, and was not at all surprised by what I read. After these first 18 or so issues, Brubaker has restored Murdock to some semblance of normalcy after the hell Kevin Smith and Bendis put the character through, but he did it fairly and didn't rush things, giving the "back to normal" story as much space as it needed. Brubaker's stuff doesn't have the stylistic or formal tricks Bendis' did, and he doesn't have Bendis' gift for dialogue (who does), but as pure story I think he might actually have the upper hand.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer TV Questions

It occurs to me that watching TV this summer has raised many questions for me. Maybe you can give me some answers! So:
  • How many witness protection charges would a Federal Marshall in Albuquerque realistically have? If In Plain Sight keeps up the pace of a new witness every episode, how quickly will it become (or has it already) unrealistic for her to have so many witnesses to keep track of?
  • How much of David Hasselhoff's cheesy cheerleading on America's Got Talent is real and how much manufactured for the cameras?
  • Was the 15-month jump on Mad Men necessary? It really seemed like the TV-standard three months had passed between seasons, not a year-plus.
  • Given the insane amount of coverage and marketing in play, how is it at all possible that NBC will make money on the Olympics? Where does all the money for the Olympics themselves come from? Are judges paid? Others who work events?
  • Is there really a reality competition show about dogs, or did I hallucinate that?

Until Whenever

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Plug Is Being Uncoupled

Tosy and Cosh are taking a very unplugged vaction, for a good two weeks or so. We'll be back in late July.

Happy Summer!!

Monday, July 07, 2008

33 Years of Albums

This meme, cribbed from The Onion's AV Club Blog, is nicely straightforward - your favorite album from each year of your life. Clearly, all are not albums I listened to originally, but these are what I from today's perspective value most dearly from each of the past 33 years:

1974 - Queen II, Queen - Great concept rock pomposity.

1975 - Blood on the Tracks - - Bob Dylan - Maybe my favorite Dylan album.

1976 - Desire - Bob Dylan - A default pick; only 1976 album I have. (A fine album, albeit no Blood on the Tracks)

1977 - My Aim Is True - Elvis Costello - . . . and the News!

1978 - This Year's Model - Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Such a difference a band makes.

1979 - Quadrophenia - The Who - I liked this album a lot more when I stopped trying to figure out the nonexistent "story."

1980 - Get Happy!! - Elvis Costello - Just edging out U2's Boy.

1981 - October - U2 - But the Boys beat Trust here.

1982 - Nebraska - Bruce Springsteen

1983 - Synchronicity - The Police - Another album I need to upgrade on. Well, maybe not "Mother."

1984 - Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen - And yet another!

1985 - Scarecrow - John Cougar Mellencamp - Mellencamp matures.

1986 - Graceland - Paul Simon - "Homeless" is still one of the prettiest things I've ever heard.

1987 - The Joshua Tree - U2 - Of course. Although Mellencamp's The Lonesome Jubilee does make a strong showing.

1988 - Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman - Check out "For You" - an undiscovered gem.

1989 - Oh Mercy - Bob Dylan - In extolling the greatness of the late 90s-early 00's triptych, I often forget how this precursor to those albums is.

1990 - Rhythm of the Saints - Paul Simon - Is it now a cxliche to say you prefer this to Graceland?

1991 - Achtung Baby - U2 - And Sting's luminous The Souls Cages weeps.

1992 - Amused to Death - Roger Waters - I'm not a big Pink Floyd fan, but I love this.

1993 - The Juliet Letters - Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet - A gorgeous song cycle.

1994 - Grace - Jeff Buckley - and yet if he hadn't died, I'm willing to bet that I'd never have heard of him.

1995 - The Bends - Radiohead - Amazing how their music has changed, no?

1996 - Boys for Pele - Tori Amos - A default pick, really

1997 - Time Out of Mind - Bob Dylan - And I thought U2's Pop and Radiohead's OK Computer would have to fight it out.

1998 - Painted from Memory - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach - I haven't listened to this in ages. Must remedy.

1999 - Brand New Day - Sting - A slim year!

2000 - All That You Can't leave Behind - U2 - I wouldn't have guessed then how omnipresent a song "Beautiful Day" would be. That sucker's going to last.

2001 - Love and Theft - Bob Dylan - OK. Maybe this is my favorite.

2002 - The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 - 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue - Bob Dylan - My favorite of the Bootleg series.

2003 - North - Elvis Costello - Elvis is always there with a mellow pop album in slow years.

2004 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - Which reminds me - new U2 album just a few months away!

2005 - Illinois - Sufjan Stevens - I am suspect to his charms.

2006 - Modern Times - Bob Dylan - Such a deliciously ironic title for such a classic album.

2007 - Neon Bible - Arcade Fire - A new sound.

Until Whenever