"As for me: The Lessons I learned from Blind Joe Death made me a kinder person. But only for a little while. My father died; my mother died; my wife "As for me: The Lessons I learned from Blind Joe Death made me a kinder person. But only for a little while. My father died; my mother died; my wife died: After each death, I became a more decent person. But it never lasted. After a while, I'd forget how close death really is, how vulnerable we all are, how short a time we have to breathe the air and stand in the light. How foolish it is, under these circumstances, to treat people cruelly or callously, or inattentively.
I keep trying to remind myself.
An excerpt from Leviticus by Michael Lesy Killing The Buddha
My sin has always been inattentiveness. To everyone in my life, you deserve, require, and should receive more from me. I, on occasion, make a commitment to do more and be more for the people in my life. These are lessons I easily forget.
I have three other books to review that I finished before this one but Jill must come first. I've talked about her before. Ms. Soloway is smart and chI have three other books to review that I finished before this one but Jill must come first. I've talked about her before. Ms. Soloway is smart and challenging and crazy funny and this collection of essays -- a kind of autobiography -- was my best friend throughout my trip to New York. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants is more amusing to me than similar books in the genre like David Sidaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day (which I do really enjoy) or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (which I didn't finish) because her perspective is closer to people in my life.
She's a brainy chick with a filthy mouth working in the entertainment industry and living in LA and loving it. She has odd tales of love and sex and is passionate about the way of the world and the world for women. She watches reality tv. Hell, she lives down the street from Real World Seattle's Rebecca (of local band Becky) who is among my most favorite of the real world kids to work with. I felt a lot of synergy while reading Jill's book.
She reminds me of Ultra Tart and Dancing Brave.
The essays themselves go down smooth. Black was Beautiful -- which, oddly, is also her Holocaust chapter -- is my second favorite in the book. It recounts Jill's experience growing up on the South side of Chicago where she and her sister are the only White and Jewish kids in an increasingly all-Black community and how that informs her identity today. I can relate having often been the only black kid in the classroom growing up (and still often being the only black person in the room). Come for that but stay for Found My Way in LA and Lesbo Island which both make me smile.
I think what I want you to think about when you go buy Tiny Ladies and read it is that hopefulness. It is this mixture of passion and anger and sex and doubt and candor but all laced with this overwhelming humor about what life is. Maybe working on a show about death will do that to ya.
Give you hope.
I'd love to ask her about it in more depth but I doubt I'll get the chance. I'm pretty sure I don't get access to Lesbo Island.
I'm a fan of metaphors and similes, so it is frustrating that "America's Report Card" defies those kinds of descriptions. It has a kind of indie filmI'm a fan of metaphors and similes, so it is frustrating that "America's Report Card" defies those kinds of descriptions. It has a kind of indie film aesthetic but not reminiscent of anything I've seen before. It's smart and biting in a McSweeney's kind of way but without the pretension and heir of superiority that sometimes plagues writers who attempt that style.
But, never mind all that, the point is that it is good.
Underneath all this wry satire about our post-9/11 America, where an art teacher believes the government is spying on her and a standardized test is used to profile citizens and mollify its workers, is a realism that is often quite striking.
The motivations of the characters -- these characters that seem both cartoonish and very real, scarily real in some cases, not unlike our President -- are never their politics. They make moves based on love and loss and while this big machine of corruption and absurdity is chugging along all around them, the curtain is never pulled. The focus is on average folks trying to make sense of the looney tunes time they live in.
Sure, by the end, McNally has run out of interesting ideas and falls on some predictable and well-treaded plots but the journey to get there is enjoyable and thought-provoking.
Since I talked Walter Mosley, it's only appropriate I talk Stephen King. The Colorado Kid is more hit than miss. It is a tight, character-rich, crimeSince I talked Walter Mosley, it's only appropriate I talk Stephen King. The Colorado Kid is more hit than miss. It is a tight, character-rich, crime mystery with no resolution, but satisfying none the less. Not much more to say, really. The lead character, Stephanie, is a fresh-out-of-J-School curious reporter working for a small-time, small-city paper who obviously is on her way to becoming a hard-boiled investigative reporter. She's the kind of character you'd want a good PI show to be based around. The mystery itself is told entirely in conversation between her and her mentors and loses none of it's intrigue because of it. Every time Stephanie asks a question, she's asking the one you want answered and the responses she gets are always worth it.
I think I'm going to try more of the Hard Case Crime series.
Recommended because good Stephen King is good Stephen King....more
Books were a major part of my gift giving this year and, being slightly amazon.com obsessive, I used their gift guides to i(orignally written in 2006)
Books were a major part of my gift giving this year and, being slightly amazon.com obsessive, I used their gift guides to inform my purchases. The guides provided by magazine editors were especially helpful and despite myself, I bought a hell of a lot of the suggestions from O. When I received the box in the mail, I realized that all of the items I had purchased had intended recipients except for one: The Power of Now.
I cracked the binding and read the first line of the introduction:
I have little use for the past and rarely think about it.
Whoa. In most conversations I have that are about life and how to live it, my lack of interest in the past is a common theme. Matter of factly, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, I guess I bought this for me." I don't consider myself new age-y at all and struggle with the terminology Tolle uses -- it's hard for me to get down with the "pain-body" and "portals" -- but I do understand the interconnectedness of all things. That this book about the Now found it's way to me now didn't seem "special". It just was.
The book itself is okay. It's significance for me has been in it's ability to get me to focus more on the spiritual concepts I already believe in even if I don't cotton to the namby pamby language. It affirmed some things. It provided some tools for staying in the moment which, as my work life has changed and become more challenging this year, has been a struggle. I'm not usually one for stress but have found myself stressing more as I adjust to new demands. The Power of Now (and my vacation) have helped calm those tendencies.
I'm not a self-help guy and I doubt you will find me grabbing up tomes of spiritual enlightenment often in the future but for the serenity I felt as I closed this book today, I'm grateful.
I recommend this if you're willing to check your cynicism at the door. I know. It was difficult for me, too. But, just for this following "Eureka!" quote, it is worth it:
...change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.
It pisses me off that there isn't a black correspondent on The Daily Show. If there is a benchmark for contemporary comedy(originally written in 2006)
It pisses me off that there isn't a black correspondent on The Daily Show. If there is a benchmark for contemporary comedy and satire it is Jon Stewart and his cast of faux reporters and their completely satirical counter-part, Stephen Colbert. There are jokes and points that can only be made from people of color. How different would the Daily Show's comedy about Hurricane Katrina had been if they had just one black face in their stable?
Hmmm, maybe not so much. It's not like Kenan Thompson and Finesse Mitchell get to do much "black" comedy on SNL (except that one time).
I came into Hokum hoping to find someone I could look at as a kind of black Mark Twain, constantly turning the mirror back on us, the view askew. Showcasing our absurdity through brilliant satire. I'm not sure that person exists in the written word. Dave Chappelle and Paul Mooney probably fit the bill the closest but the writers? Who are these people?
I don't think Beatty finds them in Hokum. There are flashes, sure. Danzy Senna's The Mulatto Millennium is still one of the defining essays from the 90s and is still hilarious. The words of Mike Tyson and Al Sharpton are always absurd but perhaps the problem here is that we can never quite tell if they are in on the joke or not. Sharpton probably is, Tyson probably isn't. Or maybe it's vice-versa.
I think I might find some comfort in knowing that Tyson was constantly winking at the camera while praising allah and hoping to eat another man's offspring.
There's true black brilliance in Trish Benson's Fifth Ward Email which opens:
"Memo to the bitch trying to cause disharmony between me and my husband.
Greetings Ho -"
There's Trey Ellis's Preliminary Scholarship Aptitude Test which, 20 years later, would be prime material for McSweeney's. There are lots of amazing names and some spectacular poetry. And some humor with titles and language that can only be categorized as black. I can't imagine anyone other than a black American asking in verse, "Should Old Shit Be Forgot?"
But Beatty is right, there is not even a black Dave Berry. Maybe Zora Neale Hurston was once, for a time, but today, who shines the light on us? Who sees Black America today and goes "WTF?" and writes about it comedically? Intelligently? Consistently?
In LeRoy's forward he talks about how he devours the writing of the old school music critics, dictionary and encyclopedia nearby, not only wanting toIn LeRoy's forward he talks about how he devours the writing of the old school music critics, dictionary and encyclopedia nearby, not only wanting to feel more connected to the music he loves but to be enveloped in it - to understand the language and the context and the layers of musical criticism. Camille Paglia and Ingrid Sischy's discussion of rock n' roll style and iconography from Elvis forward had me reaching for dictionary as well. Paglia uses a term like slatternly and then references Robert Mapplethorpe's photograph of Patti Smith like she's a walking rock wikipedia. Settle down there, big brains, let me catch up.
I didn't need my dictionary (or need to run back to the computer to search out albums and tracks and history) as much as I went from article to article, all published in 2004, but I was constantly flipping back through time in my itunes catalog. Not for the music of 2004, mind, but further back. I played through London Calling and other parts of The Clash library while I reminisced with Sasha Frere Jones and Michael Corcoran about 1979 and the crossroads of popular music that year (and that album in particular) was. I ventured through dusty and anemic areas of my music library while reading about Bob Dylan and Ray Charles. I lamented not having a single Buddy Holly track (or Nirvana for that matter but, shhhhh, don't tell anybody).
Kalefa Sanneh's The Rap against Rockism, however, is the one piece I found still immediately relavent to our current moment in music in 2006. Especially in light of the discussion of this year's most popular music over at Lynne's spot. The question to ponder is this - Why is an artist like Sufjan Stevens getting all the music critic love while Mariah Carey put out the year's most popular (and listenable and contemporary and, generally, critically well received) album and is nowhere to be found? It is essentially the same question that Sanneh asks
"...when did we all agree that Nirvana's neo-punk was more respectable than Carey's neo-disco?"
Or to ask it a different way, twenty years from now will you be begging your oldies DJ to whip out his retro video ipod and put on some Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or will you be grabbing your homeboys and homegirls and trying to line dance to Shake It Off or We Belong Together because those were your jams?
Don't front. Somebody is buying up all that fuckin' Laffy Taffy and My Humps on iTunes.
That said, while Sanneh calls the rockist elitism to task, the collection is woefully lacking in anything relaven to say about the important music of 2004. For these talented writers, it really is all about the long gone days of folk, punk, Nirvana and white guy rock.
But for the skill in their prose, the collection is recommended. The rockism snobbery is just being put on notice....more