Monday, March 31, 2008

Money for nothing

35. "Rock, Rock, Rock!"
I watched this because Chuck Berry makes an appearance. It's also funny when it shouldn't be.

Alan Freed is aces with the teenagers. The kids love the rock and roll. The kids also worry about who is going to take them to the big dance. The kids like dances. Alan Freed MCs the dance. This is where most of the performers "Rock, Rock, Rock" and get the kids dancing.

Don't watch this. The poster is much better than the film.

Here's the first verse of the title track

Rock, rock, rock, rock, everybody
rock, rock, rock, rock, everybody
rock, rock, rock, rock, everybody
you rock it and you rock it and you rock it around!

That pretty much doesn't sum anything up.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

There are no donkeys in the game

34. "The King of Kong"
Fuck you, Billy Mitchell! Long live Steve Wiebe!

"The King of Kong" is about Steve Wiebe's attempt to break Billy Mitchell's Donkey Kong high score. Wiebe does it at his home. The people who say whether or not the record is legit don't think he did it legitimately. Wiebe travels to their home arcade and sets another record there. A few hours later Mitchell announces he has a tape with another high score. The tape screens. Wiebe goes home. It goes on like this for a while. Point is, Wiebe is a normal guy that fell on hard times and used Donkey Kong as an escape. He seems like a loving husband and father and seems to enjoy his job teaching junior high science. Billy Mitchell is an ego maniac with a warped sense of accomplishment. The filmmakers make it easy to root for one and jeer at the other.

Watch this film. I don't play video games and was interested from the start.

The Originator

15. George White "Bo Diddley - Living Legend"
This is the only book about Bo Diddley. This is a shame. One of the founders of rock and roll deserves more than one book. Though Mr. White does his best to honor the man, "Living Legend" doesn't tell the reader nearly enough about the man, the music or his famous beat.

The book has a simple formula. White begins the chapter telling the reader what and how Bo overcame obstacles, lists every artist that used the beat or covered an original tune and closes the chapter with some reassurance that rock and roll will never die. Though the formula gets boring, it's an alright way to read about the legend.

Read this book. Not because it's great, but because you can never know too much about Bo Diddley.

Also, thanks to the book, I learned that Bo Diddley released a song in the mid 90s called "She Wasn't Raped." This is fucked up.

Friday, March 28, 2008

On track

14. Cormac McCarthy "No Country for Old Men"
I haven't seen the film so please don't tell me anything about it.

I was never able to get over the lack of quotation marks. McCarthy doesn't use them. The book has a lot of dialogue. It's a pain.

The story is great. The moral ambiguity was well done. The dialogue, though difficult to read, was short and to the point. My only problem with the book is not the book's fault. Though I haven't seen the film I couldn't help think of the actor's in the film while reading the book.

13. Banana Yoshimoto, Translated by Michael Emmerich "Asleep"
This book was given to me with no description. It made the read better.

I had not read any contemporary Japanese writers until Yoshimoto. I didn't know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised.

"Asleep" is comprised of three novella length pieces. Each story uses sleep as a main facet of the story. While this sounds boring, it's not. Yoshimoto doesn't overuse the concept and never ventures into dreamscape.

It's a quick read and I plan to read the Yoshimoto catalogue.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Just like Prince

12. Paul Hemphill "Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams"
It took almost a year to finish this 224 book. No, it's not dense or full of footnotes or in a foreign language. I just didn't enjoy the prologue. Once I passed the ruminations of the author's childhood with his truck driving, stable, Hank Williams' loving dear ol' dad, I finished the book in two nights.

"Lovesick Blues" is a good read for any casual music fan. An obsessive Williams' fan won't discover any large revelations that explain what could be found by listening to "Cold, Cold Heart" or "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." The story is simple and tragic. Williams had a gift for telling a simple story, was surrounded by women who wanted their piece of the pie, soaked himself in whiskey from the age of 12 and was never at home unless in the studio. Hank Williams was country music's Hemingway, something that isn't lost on the author.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Psycho Killer

33. "Five Minutes to Live" (also titled "Door-to-Door Maniac")
If you have a decent internet connection you should watch this film. I bought it for $1 last summer at Walgreen's, but you can also watch it for free on

Johnny Cash plays a killer in this wonderful B-film from 1961. In 80 minutes he kills his girlfriend, plays acoustic guitar and sings to his potential victim, threatens to rape an innocent wife, destroys some porcelain statues and generally terrorizes the suburbs. Hooray!

Watch this film. It's great for every reason a B-film can be great. All of Cash's one liners are all good enough to be tattooed on rockabilly fellas. His pompadour is magnificent. And lil' Ronnie Howard saves the day! Hooray!

Why take on a Boston accent?

32. "The Lady From Shanghai"
I've spent more time reading about the film, Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles than it took to watch the film. Welles made the film in order to fund a play. This shows.

It's hard to not like this film. Rita Hayworth is easy on the eyes and now I have a new found respect for the White Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan." Orson Welles is a larger than life character that was probably born an imposing figure. But it's hard to understand a film that doesn't care about making sense.

"The Lady From Shanghai" seems like a great experiment. The final scene is legendary for a good reason. But if you never see the film, you're not losing out.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


31. "Hot Rod"
Damn, Andy. Yes, Queens of the Stone Age does have a cameo, but I don't think it's them playing the 80s power ballad.

It was hard to stay awake. The film is under 90 minutes and I almost fell asleep three times.

I enjoy Bill Hader and he had a few good lines, but, well, I don't know. I don't know.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Not the one with Adam Sandler

30. "There Will Be Blood"
I understand why this is supposed to be a great film. The cinematography is beautiful. The dialogue is sparse yet poignant. The score is inventive and out of place in a good way. Daniel Day Lewis loses himself in the role of Daniel Plainview.

Something didn't add up.

I did not enjoy this film. There was nothing to enjoy. It seems like Paul Thomas Anderson made a film for people to call great, not to enjoy or learn anything. For example, I've never had a desire to see people getting slaughtered yet I learned something from "Schindler's List." I learned nothing from "Superbad," but I enjoyed it. While I wasn't expecting either type of film, I would have liked a coherent story with semi-believable characters.

Chimp blood

29. "MXP: Most Xtreme Primate"
We all lose.

Nothing decent is on television on Sunday afternoons. It's one of the reasons people believe in God. Limited choices.

This thing makes me question my belief in evolution, common decency, the use of racial stereotypes and the right to bear arms. I did not enjoy one moment of this thing, yet I did nothing to change the channel. Sure, I was folding laundry, washing dishes and picking up trash, but that's no excuse. I have a soul and this was tearing it apart.

Why would a monkey snowboard? Why would a sombrero mean someone is from Mexico? Why would an Italian man get his own table with a bottle of red wine and a bread basket at a snowboarding event featuring a team of 10-year old competitors? Why would a snowboard race be in teams of two? Why would a band, Dynamite Boy, license it's songs for this thing?

Who would show this to their children? Who would let their child watch this after reading the back of the DVD? This thing should be used for birth control. If you laugh at multiple sight gags, you're baby makers are permanently removed. If you chuckle multiple times, you get a 10-year shot preventing your seed being spread. If you chuckle once, one year. If you stare at the screen with dead eyes and think about suicide, 6 months. If you turn the thing off and read a book, please, go ahead and breed.

I may be a masochist.

Bloody chimp

11. "Darkly Dreaming Dexter"
I got the version with this cover. I don't like walking around with books with the film or television cast on the cover. It feels weird.

"Darkly Dreaming Dexter" is the first novel in the trilogy (thus far) by Jeff Lindsay. Dexter is a blood analyst for the Miami police department. He has a "Dark Passenger" that tells him to kill. He doesn't like blood. Doesn't feel. Doesn't understand emotions. Doesn't like to stick out. Only kills those who have it coming. I've ruined nothing. All of this information could be found on promotional photos of the Showtime series.

It's difficult to write about a book that has been turned into film or television. It seems like the only things worth mentioning are the casting decisions and instances where to two diverge. If you haven't seen the show none of this would matter.

Linday's first-person narrative allows Dexter to be light hearted, at least for a serial killer. By the end of the 304 pages you're rooting for Dexter to do, well, I'm not sure what.


"MXP: Most Extreme Primate" is a racist film.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


28. "Once"
It was O.K.

"Once" is about an Irish singer-songwriter that plays songs about his ex-girlfriend and meets a woman from Russia and she likes his songs and he wants to sleep with her because he's lonely and she likes playing piano and tells him to go to the ex in London so he decides to record some songs and does and the songs are good and the end.

The songs are O.K. I did enjoy the part when the piano player tells the guitar player that her song isn't done and don't judge it and blah blah blah and he says, "Just play it." That is realistic.


The story behind the film is much more interesting than the film.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

At least she had the ambition

10. "Waking Up in Chicago"
This is part travel book, part musical history. It doesn't do either very well. Chicago is too large in size and stature for such a short work.

Claire Hughes is a London based music writer. She moved to Wicker Park for a summer to write this book. A novel idea. I'd like to move to London to write a book about that music scene and history. I won't because it's absurd to think that anyone could take on such a task and do a decent job, at least with such a low word count.

The book isn't a total wash. I did learn some basic history of house music and get an outsiders perspective of the avant-garde jazz scene. If Ms. Hughes stuck to the facts and cut down on pages of prose on the gorgeous lake, homeless and wise fountain watchers and the beauty of music, I might have enjoyed more.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Ash does rule

9. "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor"
The students were doing their assignments and I was wandering around the library. I picked up Mr. Campbell's first book. I took it home and just finished the wonderful memoir.

Sure, I've seen the "Evil Dead" trilogy and have always enjoyed Bruce Campbell's presence in television and film, but I wouldn't consider myself a big fan. I knew about the book since it came out in 2002 and that's about it. I figured I would get around to it sooner or later and well, now is the time.

Bruce Campbell's book works well because he gives his positive, honest (at least it seems honest) and unique perspective on events ranging from building a tree house to making super 8 films with his "boys" to directing the final "Hercules" episode. What really made me enjoy the book is the author's outlook on success. Sure, he's not an A-list actor, but he enjoys his life. He gets to travel around the world, lands a critically acclaimed role every once in a while, enjoys his two kids and wife and, to the delight of you and I, kill the dead with a chainsaw.