Sunday, May 25, 2008

I like the cover

24. James Gleick "Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything"
I should have read the post script first. Gleick comes out and says that by the time the paperback edition was printed, it's already out of date. That was printed in 2000.

"Faster" is part history book, part science expose and part personal essays. I enjoyed the chapters on the history of the pocket watch but didn't like the musings on multitasking while waiting for your computer to boot.

The book was good enough to give other Gleick works a shot, but I'll keep in mind that timing is everything.

Oscar approved titties

42. "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
I was hankering for a Philip Seymour Hoffman fix so I rented whatever Redbox had. This is what they had.

With each passing minute I liked the film less and less. The cuts between points of view got annoying. The story telling style was interesting, but it didn't make the film. All in all, a two out of four that wouldn't been a three out of four with 20 minutes less footage.

Oh yea, Marissa Tomei is topless for the majority of her scenes.

Sidenote: I think a work entitled "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead" is actually more interesting than "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."

Sidenote 2: I know that the title is taken from an old poem.

A Senator that uses cocaine!

41. "Charlie Wilson's War"
I like Tom Hanks. This is a very controversial statement. Since he's been a mentally challenged, AIDS casuality, I think he's bounced back quite well. After spending a few years in an airport, he's finally back in the good ole' US of A as a good ole' boy US Senator from Texas. The film also stars Julia Roberts in a role that didn't make me want her to retire and Philip Seymore Hoffman in a role that, well, makes you really, really like Philip Seymore Hoofman.

"Charlie Wilson's War" is the type of Hollywood film that makes Hollywood films good. It has a liberal message, features sex and drugs, men cry, women are strong and nothing is really solved. Good film.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Belmont and Clark

23. Don De Grazia "American Skin"
Spending so much time in the Lakeview neighborhood as a teenager definitely made "American Skin" a quick, easy and entirely enjoyable read.

"American Skin" is the story of Alex Verdi, a 17-year old kind-of runaway that stumbles upon skinhead culture at the Punkin' Donuts at Belmont and Clark. Within days, Alex is a skinhead, not the Hitler kind, the other kind, working and living in a punk club. For the first 150 pages of the book I was surprised that this hasn't been optioned for a film. The last 150 pages made it clear why it wasn't.

De Grazia's style is similar to Joe Meno, a fellow Chicago based Columbia College writer. In fact, "American Skin" and "Hairstyles of the Damned" main differences are the South Suburbs vs. the North side and a slightly higher income.

Fucking shit

40. "Soul Food"
Fucking sucks. I can't think of a more lauded film shot in Chicago in the last twenty years.

The Vanessa Williams' character has every right to cut off the rest of the family. She pays bills no one else considers, grants loans to family members knowing she'll never get paid back and uses her connections to get in laws out of jail. She's portrayed as selfish.

The characters aren't fleshed out, the progression is obvious and, though probably not a fault of itself, the dialogue sounds recycled from sitcoms like "All of Us," "One on One" and "Half and Half."

The 10-year old narrator somehow ties together diabetes, the celebration of food, slavery and a cash find in the last scene.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I've had this in my head for years

Daniel Knox is my favorite songwriter that's currently breathing. I've been listening to "What Have They Done to You Now" for a few years. I've wanted to shoot the following video since I've heard it. I was finally able.

Please watch.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I want to believe (that you will get a girlfriend)

39. "Zeitgeist: The Movie"
Oh kids, you're so silly.

My students harassed me for months about this film. I gave in and we watched it for class. It made me sad.

There's a lot of writing on the internet about this "documentary." I used the quotes because, well, it's a piece of shit. Anyways, the film is about how everything is run by money, specifically a few families, 9/11 was planned by, well, that's not exactly clear and Bush's family is no different than Hitler's or Bin Laden's or Hussein's. All the evidence presented is anecdotal, the audio gets louder when "evidence" the filmmakers agree with is presented and, finally, there is no point. A new point is presented every other minute but they're never fleshed out. All in all, the thing is like watching every political You Tube video for 2 hours and believing everything, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff.

Or that's what they want you to believe.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Choir reading

22. Thomas Frank "What's the Matter with Kansas"
Frank makes sense, at least to me. Reading a three year old book about the conversion of blue collar Democrats to blue collar Republicans isn't that revelatory, but I think I have a better understanding why people pull certain levers in booths.

"What the Matter with Kansas" brings up problems with the Democratic party, the difference between Republican "Cons" and "Mods" and, most interesting to this reader, the way anyone could vote against their own interest. Frank doesn't bog the book down with rants against any one party and gives ample respect for everyone interviewed. I especially enjoyed the 60 plus pages of notes to offer ample evidence for each point raised.

Since the book enjoyed some success, a response book entitled "What's the Matter with California" has been released. I will not read this book. I probably should. I know I won't agree with any of it, but if I read one I should read the other. In other words, I didn't need to read "What's the Matter with Kansas." I knew Frank presented evidence to prove points I already agreed with, yet I read it. I can now quote one more piece of literature when talking with my fellow liberal leaning friends about the influence of god on everything in the Midwest.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Give it away

21. Paul Auster "Travels in the Scriptorium: A Novel"
A friend loaned me this book. She told me that as soon as she finished it she threw it across the room in anger. I understand why.

Auster's 'novel' (at 160 pages, it reads more like a novella) is a wonderfully quick and engrossing read for the first 158 pages. Like all reviews I've read, it's the ending that you either love or hate. I'm leaning towards hate. There isn't much to say. I recommend the book with the same warning I received.

The best frontman in rock and roll

20. Jim Derogatis "Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips"
This is how a rock and roll biography should read. Equal parts band history, song writing process, touring anecdotes and album criticism. The only thing better than reading about The Flaming Lips is listening to them or seeing them live or watching the 2005 documentary "The Fearless Freaks." The Flaming Lips sure are great.

Similar to Greg Kot's book about Wilco, "Staring at Sound" was written for slightly obsessed music fans. If you don't care about Wayne Coyne's philosophical beliefs based on his tenure at Long John Silver's or the band's Midwestern work ethic, there isn't much to keep the casual reader interested. This isn't a bad thing per se, but Dero doesn't go as deep as this slightly obsessed would have preferred. To be fair, I'm not sure if I would want to read any more on the Lips. At 272 pages the book left me wanting more, just like "Yoshimi." Any more might have felt like listening to "At War with the Mystics."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


38. "In Bruges"
The trailer for this film is nothing like this film. The trailer made it seem like "In Bruges" would be a shoot em up action comedy. It does center around someone getting shot and there are a lot of jokes, but the film isn't an action film or a comedy. It's just a good film with equal parts action, comedy and drama.

I saw the trailer once before a film a few months ago. That's all I knew about "In Bruges." The film did not disappoint. Writer/Director Martin McDonagh obviously knew his material and got what he wanted. Colin Farrell created an original character that has the potential to be a cult figure. Ralph Fiennes comes in more than half way through the film and as always, is excellent. Brenden Gleeson plays a entirely believable multi-dimensional hitman. The setting is both bleak and fairy tale like. I really can't think of a way to improve this film. Thus far, it's the best film of 2008.

Did you know Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub?

19. Lew Freedman "Cubs Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Real Fan"
You don't need this book to be a real fan.

The book is advertised as part history book, part quiz. It doesn't do either well. It reads like each chapter was written without much thought of the others. I read that Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub in four separate chapters. While it's not a bad thing to remind that reader that Ernie Banks is loved in Chicago, it's pointless to keep preaching to the choir.

I received this book from a book sale. I read the book in one day. Spending no money and little time on this thing was good enough. I do recommend this thing for children. For a better book about the Cubs, read "The Cubs" by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson.