I've been meaning to read this for years and finally got around to it! I really enjoyed Jacoby's recent work on Peoria's Robert Ingersoll and this (muI've been meaning to read this for years and finally got around to it! I really enjoyed Jacoby's recent work on Peoria's Robert Ingersoll and this (much older) book is a treat as well. Plus it features three Peorians! Of course, Ingersoll, the Godfather of American Free Thought, is the centerpiece. But there are also appearances by Bishop Fulton Sheen (because of his faith-based radio/TV shows in the '50 and '60) and Betty Friedan (opponents of the feminist movement often linked it to atheism). All in all, a very interesting book even for someone like me who is pretty well-versed in these matters and gets bored easily....more
"A lot of people don't know I am always thisfuckingclose to doing some crazy shit."
I had high hopes for this book and was only slightly disappointed."A lot of people don't know I am always thisfuckingclose to doing some crazy shit."
I had high hopes for this book and was only slightly disappointed. As a comedy/writing nerd, I was fascinated by the autobiographical chapters and how her interest in improvisation and writing blossomed (as well as her humanitarian work in Haiti). I also loved the chapters about Tina Fey and the development of Parks & Recreation. Having said that, I was less fascinated with the chapters that were motivational or confessional (but I understand why they are there). Overall an entertaining read and a must-read for anyone with an interest in the development of sketch/improv/alt comedy (The State, UCB, Amy Sedaris & Steven Colbert, John Stewart, Steve Carell, etc.) from the early '90s to today....more
This was a fun, fast read for someone like myself who is both a movie and comedy nerd. This book basically charts his comedic development throughout tThis was a fun, fast read for someone like myself who is both a movie and comedy nerd. This book basically charts his comedic development throughout the '90s (mainly) using his obsession for movies/film as the backdrop. As a hardcore cinephile, he would spend hours in theaters before rushing off to whatever club or open mic night he could find. While summarizing the movies he saw, he also tells the story of his "rise" from MadTV writer to one of the great comedians of his generation. And, of course, there are a few shout outs to Richard Pryor, my favorite being Oswalt's dreamed-up version of "A Confederacy of Dunces" starring John Belushi as Ignatius, Richard Pryor as Burma Jones and Lily Tomlin as Ignatius's mother. ...more
Interesting look behind the scenes at the terribly tumultuous Nixon presidency. Since the book is basically transcripts, it helps to have more than aInteresting look behind the scenes at the terribly tumultuous Nixon presidency. Since the book is basically transcripts, it helps to have more than a basic knowledge of the era. It shows that Nixon was an intelligent, savvy and callous guy, who was intimately involved with foreign policy and politics. So much so, he (and Kissinger) had no problem escalating the war in some vicious and nasty ways (all -- as they say over and over -- in order to achieve peace). Some examples: "We're going to do it and I'll destroy the whole country, believe me. I mean destroy it, if necessary. And let me say, even the nuclear weapon if necessary" - Nixon to Kissinger on North Vietnam "You and I should act towards everybody as if we were going right off the cliff" - N to K "I don't want them to have any impression that I was affected one iota by public opinion, by polls, by anything of that sort" - N to K on Russia "I won't say anything foolish - but I will do things that are rash as hell, 'cause I don't give a goddamn what happens. I don't care. I don't really care." - N to K and Haig
In Nixon's defense, he did do a good job of opening up relations with China and doing the same with, while exposing the weaknesses of, the Soviet Union (back when many Americans were TERRIFIED of the Russians). He also encouraged Kissinger to present him as rash and unpredictable to foreign counterparts, something Kissinger always followed through on. Unfortunately, the book stops short of the Watergate scandal, with it only getting a mentioned in a few conversations.
I would put it in the category of "must read" for those with more than a passing interest in the Nixon years....more
I've read pretty much everything in print about Peoria's Richard Pryor, but this memoir by Paul Mooney gives you a real behind-the-scenes look from thI've read pretty much everything in print about Peoria's Richard Pryor, but this memoir by Paul Mooney gives you a real behind-the-scenes look from the guy who happened to be Pryor's creative partner for three-plus decades. Mooney was there every step of the way and was the only person who "had the ear of Caesar", aka unfettered access to Richard. Hilarious and insightful, gut-wrenching and sad, this memoir provides intimate details from the only person who had an unbroken personal relationship with Richard over the years. Highly recommended....more
I've never been able to precisely describe what it is McLuhan did exactly because he was so singular. In this he's called the original media guru, andI've never been able to precisely describe what it is McLuhan did exactly because he was so singular. In this he's called the original media guru, and that's an understatement. He was able to have the foresight to see how different technologies would effect culture as a whole. Here is the guy who coined the phrase "global village" in the '60s in reference to what he thought the effect of electronic technology would have on the world. Here's the guy who predicted (again, in the '60s) that color TV would have a great impact on sports viewing, in particular snow-related activities that are more visceral (X-Games, anyone?). Here's the guy who predicted electronics would allow tribal, third-world countries to leap into the 20th century, without having the cultural development leading up to it, thereby remaining tribal (Middle East, anyone?). And he had a bit role in "Annie Hall". So yeah, media guru but I think he might be the first Media Scientist/Philosopher.
At this point, having read a good chunk of McLuhan over the years, I have yet to run across anything of his that isn't five star. Tedious and digressive at times? Yes. Reference-dense and complex? Most definitely. But the man drops some serious knowledge on you. He's a lot like an author he quotes a lot: James Joyce. And the same rule applies: stick with him even through densest parts; you will be rewarded and possible have your mind blown. And that's definitely the case with this, one of his greatest works. In this book (1962) he predicts that electronic age will displace print just as movable type displaced the manuscript. He discusses how new technologies possess the "power to hypnotize because (they) isolate the senses" ("Will you at least stop looking at your phone when we're talking?"). And, as always, he has a great witty writing style: "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding." Highly recommended. ...more
When you read/hear/watch something about the Tudor era, obviously the focus is on the craziness surrounding the revolving monarchial situation and theWhen you read/hear/watch something about the Tudor era, obviously the focus is on the craziness surrounding the revolving monarchial situation and the quest for a male heir -- which means you hear about Tudor life on land. What you never hear about is life on sea. And considering we're talking the 1550s, any person willing to take to the waters beyond his own coastline? That takes cojones, my friend. And to attempt to find a northern passage to either the east or west to reach "Cathay", aka China? That takes cojones mas grande.
This book tells the exciting (and terrifying) tale of those English mariners (under the direction of Sebastian Cabot and led by Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor) who headed off into the frigid, unknown northern waters to find something that might not be there.
Early on a nasty storm blew them to the northeast, towards the Arctic circle (which they had no idea existed - they constantly mistook ice floes for land). Of the three ships making the trip, one was separated from the other two. The former found safe harbor in the White Sea and those aboard became the first Englishmen to visit a little country known as "Russia" - they even met with Ivan the Tzar (before he got all terrible). As to the fate of the latter two boats? Well, there's a lot more to that story and I won't ruin it for you.
I'm always fascinated with history books about "things I've never heard of" and this falls squarely into that category. Very much recommended to anyone with an interest in English history, the Tudor era or nautical history. Might be a nice good complement to "Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans". ...more
This is an oddly satisfying book coming from an odd little man. The book is a companion piece to the travel show he did for Sky 1, which I don't belieThis is an oddly satisfying book coming from an odd little man. The book is a companion piece to the travel show he did for Sky 1, which I don't believe has made it across the pond (after "Idiot Abroad"). Along with describing his travels to some pretty remote locations, you also get wonderful bits of Karl-isms: "It would be odd to go out with a twin, as when the other one gets married you would know that their husband also fancies your wife," and "Look at swans...they stick with their partners for life. Saying that, I've always wondered if that's because they all look the same, so there's no point in running off with another swan."...more
"But let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious." One of Kerouac's best. Published in '5"But let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious." One of Kerouac's best. Published in '59 it foreshadowed/instigated the "rucksack revolution" of the '60s. Also, chronicled the Six Gallery poetry reading, which did the same for American poetry. More mature than OTR but just as wild with Japhy (Gary Snider) as protagonist in place of Cody (Neal Cassady)....more
When it comes to new releases from the Kerouac estate, I'm sorry to say I believe we've reached the Bukowski Point.* Right now, as I glance at my bookWhen it comes to new releases from the Kerouac estate, I'm sorry to say I believe we've reached the Bukowski Point.* Right now, as I glance at my bookshelves, I count over 50 books either by or about Kerouac and I have a hard time believing anything new or interesting has yet to come to light. While Kerouac was a prolific writer, how much more can be mined from this vein? Well, as it turns out there still some more good stuff out there.
"The Haunted Life and Other Writings" is a manuscript that Kerouac famously claimed to have left in a NY cab around 1944. As it turns out, the manuscript was actually left in a closet in a dorm room at Columbia University. At some point it was discovered and remained in a private collection until it was sold in 2002 at Sotheby's for $95K. The lost manuscript was Kerouac's most complete attempt at the time at writing what was to become "The Town and the City," his first novel.
But what I found more interesting than "The Haunted Life" bit was the "Other Writings" bit, which include a handful of letters written to Jack by his father, Leo. In Kerouac's books, Leo is always portrayed as who he was in real life: a hardworking, blue collar guy full passion and bombast. But these letters show that Jack got at least some of his literary flair from his old man, who, as it turns out, was quite the letter writer himself. And that new tidbit of information alone makes "The Haunted Life and Other Writings" a worthwhile read for any Kerouac devotee.
* The Bukowski Point: when a popular writer's work has been mined so ruthlessly that literally ANYTHING (good or bad) with his/her name on it will be published. Why? Dolla-dolla bill, ya'll....more
One of my all-time favorite books and the one that got me into Classic Lit way back in 1996. I vividly recall spending my lunch hours sitting by PeoriOne of my all-time favorite books and the one that got me into Classic Lit way back in 1996. I vividly recall spending my lunch hours sitting by Peoria's Civil War monument reading this book (followed by "Notes from the Underground" and "Brothers Karamazov"). Since I decided that 2014 was to be the year "Kevin Re-Reads the Classics," C&P seemed an appropriate place to start. At some point, I plan on publishing my progress and writing about each book on The Peorian (ThePeorian.com). So in actuality, it will be a combo of "Kevin Re-Reads the Classics" and "Kevin Reads Stuff So You Don't Have To." Next up, the Brothers K....more
This is a book probably best left to those who are a) interested in all things DFW, and/or b) into highly technical philosophical writing. I am mostlyThis is a book probably best left to those who are a) interested in all things DFW, and/or b) into highly technical philosophical writing. I am mostly of the former but have a little experience with the latter - not nearly enough though to keep up with some of DFW's essay (not to mention the others).
What was very interesting to me though was the backstory on Richard Taylor's essay on Fatalism and the resulting arguments and defenses leading up to DFW's essay. Also, it's amazing to think that while DFW was writing this as his undergrad thesis in Philosophy, he was also writing his thesis for English which turned out to be his first novel, "Broom of the System." Compared to DFW, we were all slackers in college....more
Here's a portion of my review for The Peorian magazine. You can read the whole thing here
When you hear someone referred to as a “photojournalist," theHere's a portion of my review for The Peorian magazine. You can read the whole thing here
When you hear someone referred to as a “photojournalist," the emphasis is usually on the first two syllables of that somewhat Frankensteined word. But Krista Schlyer shows in her latest book, “Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border Wall”, that she is as adept with a camera as she is with the written word.
The topic of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S. is one of the most ugly and sad political issues of our time. But the true impact has been lost in the bumper sticker banter of the 24-hour news networks.
The goal of the border wall was to stop the flow of illegal Mexican laborers, which it has failed to do (jobs trump barriers). But in something of a cruel twist it has stopped the flow of entirely different creatures, like the Sonoran pronghorn antelope herds that have been freely traveling these arid lands eons before American businesses began actively seeking out illegal laborers.
And the pronghorn are just one victim. There are literally hundreds of others – from the kit fox and gray wolf to ocelots and jaguars to frogs and birds to plant life and…the list goes on and on. While it may be a border to us, to them it’s a migration corridor (but then again, there are probably those who are against “Mexican animals” taking food from “American animals”).
As I mentioned earlier Schlyer’s photographic skills are equaled by her journalistic skills. In this book you will find stunning and unique images of the wildlife, vegetation and people of the region, interwoven with a dramatic narrative of what has become an environmental (and a human) disaster. ...more