A gentle exploration on the darkest tendencies of adolescent behavior. In her first novel, Eleanor Henderson piles on topics from teenage pregnancy, f...moreA gentle exploration on the darkest tendencies of adolescent behavior. In her first novel, Eleanor Henderson piles on topics from teenage pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, drug overdoses, parental abandonment, AIDS, vegetarianism, counter-culture transition from hippies to punks and the influences of Hinduism on the origin of straight edge. While, at times, the issues overwhelm the narrative and some mistakes made by characters seem designed for an after school special sermon, Henderson's empathy curbs her moralism and the shifting perspectives prevent anyone from being too easily glorified or demonized. The ending feels a little forced, and some characters seem abandoned for ease rather than a significant purpose; but the genuine feeling of a specific, turbulent, time bot teenage development and NYC history made up for any shortcomings. (less)
At times Stephen King's JOYLAND feels like adolescent wish fulfillment at its most blatant. A young virgin gets dumped, saves a helpless child and a d...moreAt times Stephen King's JOYLAND feels like adolescent wish fulfillment at its most blatant. A young virgin gets dumped, saves a helpless child and a despicable man, all while befriending a dying kid with a hot mom. It's also a kind of clumsy mystery, with too few suspects and sporadic interest in resolving things. When describing the plot to a friend, I unfairly dismissed it as TWILIGHT for boys. I still think the plot is light on intrigue and heavy on idealized male experience; but King's talent for atmospheric locations and engaging characters still made JOYLAND a worthwhile and entertaining read. Still working in the reluctant nostalgia of 11/22/63, JOYLAND immerses us into the per-regulation world of CONEY ISLAND style amusement parks. He brings a developed culture, language, and camaraderie that almost makes you long for the days you could lose a few fingers on a rickety roller coaster and nobody made much of a fuss about it. Sure it's a funnel cake that's half-baked and mushy on the inside, but the powdered sugar, crispy crust, and everything that the treat represents make the meaningless calories worth it. (less)
I started listening to this on my way to Brooklyn, while somewhat lost on the back roads of Pennsylvania. It was dark out, and the road was obstructed...moreI started listening to this on my way to Brooklyn, while somewhat lost on the back roads of Pennsylvania. It was dark out, and the road was obstructed by a thick haze of mist. Every so often small rural houses were visible. It was the perfect atmosphere to begin an audiobook which opens with a detailed chapter on the murders and fetishes of Ed Gein. As the narrator told of Gein's grave robberies, lip collection, and skin suits, I felt more genuinely creeped out than I have been in years. It was glorious.
The rest of the book chronicles the making of PSYCHO in a meticulously detailed, and endlessly fascinating fashion. It takes a pretty linear tone, moving from the true story of Gein, to Robert Bloch's pulpy novel, to screenplay, production, editing, release, reception, and legacy. Rebello takes an objective look at some of the more notorious controversies (Saul Bass' alleged direction of the shower scene) and layers anecdotal evidence of those involved against each other, in a way that gets as close to a truth as is possible in Hollywood lore.
I was surprised to espy a stack of Richard Wiseman's book PARANORMALITY in the Religion section at HALF PRICE BOOKS a few weeks ago. It doesn't entert...moreI was surprised to espy a stack of Richard Wiseman's book PARANORMALITY in the Religion section at HALF PRICE BOOKS a few weeks ago. It doesn't entertain the notion that supernatural events are real for a moment, so its place alongside new age drivel is delightfully ironic. But the reason I yelped in disbelief is because the book didn't find a publisher in the United States. While Wiseman's previous books - including 59 SECONDS, an evidence based entry in the self help genre, and QUIRKOLOGY, his exploration into weird science - found a home in the US, PARANORMALITY was denied an entry visa.
While Americans devour the rambling rants of countless Chopraesque gurus, they are not so keen on books that call bullshit on flim flam. Though PARANORMALITY was a best seller abroad, publishers felt Mary Roach's 2005 SPOOK was all the skepticism towards the unrealdead we need in the U.S. of A. thank you very much, and good day sir.
This is a shame because PARANORMALITY is a fantastic read. Wiseman offers short anecdotes of ghost stories, mind readers, fortune tellers, etc; succinctly and humorously explains why they are bunk; then uses the experiences as a springboard to delve into the latest scientific theories and hypothesis on our faulty cognition. The section on the Jonestown Massacre was one of the most interesting I've read. Especially refreshing was that, unlike many skeptical authors, Wiseman encourages using his lessons to frighten, fool, and fuck with friends*. He also provides links to short videos of experiments, tricks and interviews throughout the text via QR tags. The book ends (spoiler alert) with a nice thought on the beauty of disbelief, "To believe that the findings of supernatural science remove wonder from the world is to fail to see the remarkable events that surround us every day of our lives. And, unlike those who appear to talk with the dead or move objects with the power of their minds, these amazing phenomena are genuine."
Despite the lack of a major release, Wiseman self-published and you can find the Kindle version here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00572B4BK. And, last I checked, there were still copies of the British version at the Half Price Bookstore on Lane (still hiding out in the display section of the Religion section).
*I'm concentrating on your right ring finger. Place your hand palm down on your desk, and spread out your fingers. I'm now going to hold your right ring finger down with my mind. Hmmm. Not working is it? I think I'm getting bad psychic vibrations from your middle finger. It seems to be flipping me the bird in my mind, disturbing my chi. Please hide it by bending just that finger under your hand at the second joint. There. That's better. Now, with the rest of your fingers spread out as before, I'm using all of my mental force to hold down that ring finger. I'mmmmm puuuusssshhhinnnnggggg doooowwwnnnn onnnn ittt nnnnooooww... TRY TO LIFT IT AND BEHOLD MY POWERS!!!
(don't worry, the other experiments are better, this was just the easiest to do from afar.)(less)
Roger Ebert never struck me as the type of guy who lost his virginity to a South African prostitute; but, he is. I was also surprised to learn he star...moreRoger Ebert never struck me as the type of guy who lost his virginity to a South African prostitute; but, he is. I was also surprised to learn he started reviewing movies on assignment, not out of deep love of cinema - which developed through viewing and time. As with many modern memoirs, it is actually an expanded patchwork of previously published blog entries. Each of the 50 plus chapters explores a specific theme, memory, or character but, when experienced as a novel, the overlaps and omissions start to stand out. The first part, chronicling Ebert's childhood through adolescence, is meticulous in the minutia of subjective memory; in this section, his voice is one of a director. However, the perspective becomes more distant, more objective once his life as a film critic begins; and here his voice if one of, well, a critic.
The audiobook was narrated by Edward Herrman (the vampire step dad in LOST BOYS), and he's fantastic. Ebert, for reasons detailed in the book, no longer has a voice of his own. Herrman treats the reading like a role, and inhabits the character of Ebert. Though I can still vividly recall Ebert's actual voice from the countless weekends spent listening to him on AT THE MOVIES, I was able to accept Herrman as a worthy substitute.
I probably should have actually read END THIS DEPRESSION NOW! instead of listening to the audiobook version. Not only could I not see the multiple cha...moreI probably should have actually read END THIS DEPRESSION NOW! instead of listening to the audiobook version. Not only could I not see the multiple charts Krugman cites, but my mind also wanders more easily during the dry segments. I figured I listen to enough political podcasts that I could trust myself to pay attention, but nope. Half way through an explanation on the dangerous economic side effects transferring to the Euro caused Greece and Spain, my stupid brain starts wondering about the last movie Angelina Jolie showed her boobs in (Original Sin? Taking Lives maybe...does Beowulf count?). It's like my brain doesn't realize how imperative it is that I pay attention to this stuff; because any second of the day my conservative friends and cousins could be posting unfunny tea-party memes on facebook, and the fate of our nation's future lies in the quality of my response posts debunking them.
Strangely, I think I was actually more attentive listening to Thomas Sowell's THE HOUSING BOOM AND BUST (despite Sowell's ability to make Ben Stein seem as animated as Jim Carrey). But that was more because BUST was so jaw dropping in its up-is-down conservative claims, I couldn't help but pay attention. Krugman's latest is more a repeated call for Keynesian stimulus, and repeated critiques of the ineffective and harmful results of austerity. If THEY LIVE type glasses existed to decode subliminal intent, each page of this would read: I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO.(less)
I love this book, in part because it made me feel a little bit better about how much worse I'm doing "it." Michael Ian Black represents my Platonic id...moreI love this book, in part because it made me feel a little bit better about how much worse I'm doing "it." Michael Ian Black represents my Platonic ideal of myself. Had I been born with greater ambition, actual talent, a sharper sense of humor and better looks, I can see myself reaching the apex of my potential as a mildly depressed C-list celebrity like Black. His book isn't the type of complex classic with flowery prose and a propulsive narrative I usually reserve the 5 star rating for. Black's insights aren't necessarily deep; they are something I currently find more fulfilling: honest about their mundanity. I became too embarrassed to read this in public because every page had some passage which made me howl with laughter, or weep with empathy. I love this book.(less)
Jon Ronson reads his novel with a tone that is at once deeply soothing and somewhat anxious. THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, an excerpt of which was featured on...moreJon Ronson reads his novel with a tone that is at once deeply soothing and somewhat anxious. THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, an excerpt of which was featured on THIS AMERICAN LIFE, is his follow up to the George Clooney movie THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS. Ronson uses his somewhat more marketable name to continue to open doors of eccentrics who are always fascinating, and occasionally terrifying. While the book does focus on Psychopathy, and the checklist which inspired the title, it is more organized around what separates madness from sanity. We know the psychopaths are crazy, but what about the doctors who feed them LSD, let them roll around in their own feces as an expression of freedom, and make visitors wear crime scene photos around their necks so as not to disturb the extreme environment? Or the Scientologists who try to free potential psychopaths to discredit the field of psychiatry? Or the ex-MI5 9/11 Truther transvestite who thinks he's Jesus? Or the journalist who seeks these people out and tells their stories for profit? Ronson unearths fascinating history and the individuals behind it while also keeping the story personal and self-deprecating. Some stories are more fascinating than others, and I found my mind wandering during some of the final, less sensationalistic chapters; but the subject and subjects are memorable and - despite Ronson's multiple warnings against non-professional use - the Hare Checklist has kept me busy spotting psychos since I started the audiobook. (less)
It is frustrating how well David Thompson writes about film considering how little he seems to respect it. Film through Thompson's lens seems a bit di...moreIt is frustrating how well David Thompson writes about film considering how little he seems to respect it. Film through Thompson's lens seems a bit dirty, in both the kid in the mud, and Larry Flint way. He looks down on film, constantly lauding literature and other arts as superior. Which is fine, hell I share the same condescending view towards video games - only I wouldn't bother to write a page on them, much less a book. Thompson gets the title from Hemingway's THE LAST TYCOON, his final, unfinished novel about Hollywood. THE WHOLE EQUATION here is one which takes into account the combination between art and business, as well as the audience's contribution to both.
Thompson is a wonderful writer, whose words flow with such intelligence and wit that the underlying condescension feels natural and right. But it isn't. Mark Cousins tells a similar cinematic history in his documentary THE STORY OF FILM, and he is equally critical towards the excesses of industry; but his is a true love story. Thompson's story of film is a jilted lover's take - a look back at an ex to find what the hell he saw in the first place. Cousins' explores the history as one would with a life-partner, exposing the flaws only because they are part of the beloved whole.
Actually, Thompson seems to feel towards cinema the way I feel towards his book: appreciative for the moments of truth, beauty and entertainment, while frustrated at the cynicism blocking the artistic potential. (less)
I started reading this because Richard Wiseman writes one of my favorite blogs (http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2...). I thought it would be a sat...moreI started reading this because Richard Wiseman writes one of my favorite blogs (http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2...). I thought it would be a satirical deconstruction of the self help industry, instead it's an earnest deconstruction of self help industry claims that offers more realistic claims based on scientific studies. I once joked "I may be a depressed and broke failure but at least I've never read a self help book." Thanks to Wiseman, I'm now a depressed and broke failure who has read a self help book. Wiseman keeps a droll tone throughout the book, and offers quick and easy ways to change your life a little. Most of the advice is simple (don't hit things if you're mad, think about how you will feel doing things rather than how you will feel when you're done, don't have a last name that begins with C, D, or F if you want to be motivated to achieve in school, etc.) I'm not entirely convinced of everything he claims (see the surname school claim) but my life definitely needs to change and I do have a few minutes to spare. (less)
I was driving from Ohio to Utah with my conservative Mormon friend and he asked if we could put on this book. I agreed because I once made a deal with...moreI was driving from Ohio to Utah with my conservative Mormon friend and he asked if we could put on this book. I agreed because I once made a deal with him to read the Book of Mormon if he read People's History of the United States, he finished Zinn while I only got about 3/4 through Book of Mormon, so I figured I owed him some book time. I wasn't very familiar with Sowell, and I'll at least grant him he ties his ideology to stronger research than paranoid such as bloviators Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh, even if this research is more cherry picked than a (no appropriate analogy available). Sowell actually makes a pretty strong case for the liberal origins of the housing crisis, though he goes to great pains to deflect the conservative role, and even throws a few GOP representatives under the bus to ensure his idealized ideology remains untarnished. The real trouble comes when Sowell uses his heavily tenuous blame of the Community Reinvestment Act (which was only responsible for a small fraction of the subprime loans* anyway) as being the driving force behind the banking crisis of '08. Any derision for the banks at all is saved only for their acquiescence with any government regulations. I did, however, appreciate his conceptualization of a "trillion" by pointing out a trillion seconds ago there were no modern humans.
A few weeks ago a friend ecstatically informed me that Lars Ulrich played Joris Ivens in the HBO film HEMINGWAY AND GELLHORN. An instant look of befud...moreA few weeks ago a friend ecstatically informed me that Lars Ulrich played Joris Ivens in the HBO film HEMINGWAY AND GELLHORN. An instant look of befuddlement exposed my ignorance of who this Ivens figure was. "You know, Joris Ivens. The Dutch documentary filmmaker. He's one of the most influential figures in film history." I had a sudden urge to shift my ignorance by saying, "Of course, but who is this Lars Ulrich you speak of?" Instead I tucked my cineaste tail between my leg and accepted the deserved derisive glare. As he walked away, I immediately decided to bump Erik Barnouw's DOCUMENTARY to the top of my reading list.
The few chapters I read for a film history class didn't prepare me for the exquisite depth of this essential work. Barnouw drifts between film analysis, biographies, evolution of technology, shifting movements and trends, while simultaneously offering a world history of political and economic trends of the 20th century Zinn would approve of. His insights on individual films are consistently poetic and enthusiastic. He never wastes time on unworthy films, they are simply left out of the book. The vast amount of research involved is hard to comprehend, Barnow and his wife traveled the globe exploring archives, interviewing filmmakers and participants, scanning scripts and viewing hundreds of documentaries; yet the dramatic narrative feels effortless.
The only disappointment is that Barnouw was, tragically, mortal and passed before the Youtube era and the most recent boom in doc popularity, as his insights would continue be revelatory and fascinating. (less)
A few years ago on Real Time with Bill Mahr, Ashton Kutcher asked why we waste money on NASA. His point was there there are so many problems down here...moreA few years ago on Real Time with Bill Mahr, Ashton Kutcher asked why we waste money on NASA. His point was there there are so many problems down here on Earth that shooting money at the stars just seems wasteful. Someone needs to give Mr. Kutcher this book. In SPACE CHRONICLES Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the applicable scientific achievements brought to us through space exploration (including a Hubble inspired breast cancer detector), while also detailing the numerous cosmic queries answered over the last century. He also takes a look back at what we accomplished in space travel, then turns a somber eye on where we are vs. where we could be. Tyson points out NASA currently costs us just about half a penny for every tax dollar, and longs for a new space race that would up that to the levels enjoyed in the '60s - only this time fueled by the desire for discovery, rather than annihilation. SPACE CHRONICLES is consistently fascinating, but this collection of essays, speeches, and articles concerning space travel does turn a bit redundant after a few chapeters. The second time you anticipate a punch line it feels like learning; the fourth or fifth time it just feels repetitive. Also, this may be the first non teen lit book to contain a chapter comprised solely of tweets. Perhaps my problem is really that I'm already a convert. The message of Tyson's hammer has long been nailed into my skull. Perhaps Space Chronicles is not really intended for believers like me, but for the Ashton Kutchers out there. In which case...hammer away Dr. Tyson. (less)
"War is such a peculiar thing - inaugurated by the whims of a few, affecting the fate of many. It is a difficult, if not impossible thing to understan...more"War is such a peculiar thing - inaugurated by the whims of a few, affecting the fate of many. It is a difficult, if not impossible thing to understand, yet we feel compelled to describe it as though it has meaning - even virtue. It starts for reasons often hopelessly obscure, meanders on, then stops."
"In the pre-photographic era, images came directly from our eyes to our brains and were part of our experience of reality. With the advent of photography, images were torn free from the world, snatched from the fabric of reality, and enshrined as separate entities. They became more like dreams. It is no wonder we really don't know how to deal with them."
"What we see is not independent of our beliefs. Photographs provide evidence, but no shortcut to reality. It is often said that seeing is believing. But we do not form our beliefs on the basis of what we see; rather, what we see is often determined by our beliefs. Believing is seeing, not the other way around."
"(People) turn to conspiracies when they don't want to bother with more complex explanations. They come up with all sorts of ideas that are usually the product of not wanting to think about why things happened."(less)