Three new CDs worth 15 stars from three bands that were born for Twin Peaks…
You may have heard:
You may have heard:
As I’ve made clear by now to any who read my essays on the books I read, I have devoted 2014 to trying works outside my normal range of reading interests. As a result I’ve read some popular YA literature (and evoked a storm of controversy), tried a couple of of works by the most and celebrated of the recently anointed and highly admired “genre literati” (and found them interesting – if not as arresting as some of my colleagues do), and taken a look at the power that formula fiction seems to have on the reading public.
I suppose it is in that spirit that I picked up a copy of Maeve Binchy‘s Nights of Rain and Stars. The wildly popular Irish author produced numerous bestsellers and proudly proclaimed herself a happy composer of what are commonly called in the parlance of publishing “beach reads” – effortless, entertaining and ultimately forgettable tales. Nights of Rain and Stars seems to me to be exactly the sort of book well qualified to be a satisfying “beach read.” Continue reading
Irwin Mainway would be proud. Even he would have a hard time topping this headline: “Toys R Us pulls meth-toting ‘Breaking Bad’ action figures from shelves after Florida mom’s protest.”
The dolls, based on the recently concluded AMC series, featured characters based on White, a meth-cooking high school science teacher, and his sidekick, Jesse Pinkman. Along with the action figures, the toys came with fake bags of meth, sacks of cash and gas masks.
For those of you not old enough to remember, Irwin Mainway was a sleazy toy salesman who was perennially grilled about his dangerous toys (such as “Bag of Glass”) by Jane Curtin on the “Consumer Probe” skit. The toys were over-the-top ridiculous. Continue reading
We’re two episodes into Gotham, the new Batman prequel series, and we may be on the verge of the greatest iteration of the famed (and occasionally overdone) franchise yet.
Some brief observations.
1: Robin Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot is fucking awesome. If this keeps up, he’s going to rival Heath Ledger’s Joker as the ultimate series villain.
2: Camren Bicondova can maybe evolve into the best Cat Woman ever. She’s got a look and she’s got, if you’ll forgive me, a certain catitude. Continue reading
Hmmm, let’s see—
1. ESPN suspends Stephen Smith for one week after Smith suggests that women play a role in provoking domestic violence. You know, they bring it on themselves.
2. Ray Rice was originally suspended for two weeks (well, two games, actually) by NFL chief honcho Roger Goodell for decking his wife so hard he knocked her out.
3. ESPN just suspended Bill Simmons for three weeks for stating the obvious—Goodell is lying.
I’m trying to find a pattern here. Can anyone help?
Since my last post on the subject of Facebook (see Goodbye, Facebook below), I’ve paid next to no attention to it at all, reminded of its existence only by the slow feed of occasional email notifications, an onslaught that slowed to a trickle once I stopped feeding the best. Once in a while I’d click a guilty click to see a picture, perhaps of a friend’s newborn. Other times I was curious to see if the powers that be at Facebook ever bothered to get back to me on my request to cancel my Ars Skeptica page.
A quick bit about that, as an aside:
For whatever reason, of the handful of silly pages I created, Facebook’s magical data gremlins must have realized that Ars Skeptica was different. The others it let me delete without an issue. The Ars Skeptica page deletion provided a prompt that they would get back to me in two weeks time (many weeks ago now) to confirm that I do indeed mean to delete said page. Continue reading
If you’re a reader, you probably have a list of “fave” books. Or of books you found “influential.” Or of books you liked because each told “a good story.” Or maybe because the books were filled with vampires and such.
I’m surrounded by book listers. I lurk on a listserv of really bright people, and one of the topics du jour is “what’s your book list.” (Thanks to them, I’ve picked up several to add to my own list.)
Jim Booth, one of my fellow co-founders of Scholars & Rogues, compiles a list of books each year and reviews them here. (He’s done more than 50 reviews this year alone.) A faculty colleague has from time to time posted outside his office a list of “books I spent time with this summer.”
I never thought much about book lists.
Then the Time of My Great Disenchantment with Mega-Corporate-Run Journalism began to descend on me about seven years ago. I realized that the grist of daily journalism no longer dealt at length or in depth with the gnawing questions I need answered:
How does the world work? Why does it work that way? What are the consequences of the answers to the first two questions?
This will be the last essay on the excellent group of scholarly discussions of popular music’s elements of protest, The Resisting Muse: Popular Music and Social Protest. It is the essay I have waited until the end to write for a couple of reasons: first, my knowledge of hip-hop is limited enough to be called laughable by most music fans of the last 30+ years (that in itself is amazing to consider—hip-hop is now more than 30 years old); second, the section from which these essays come in The Resisting Muse is called “Monophony or Polyphony?” and covers a good bit of territory. That said, these essays are well worth some review and discussion—so I will do my best to do them justice. Continue reading
On August 13, Fox News contributor and psychiatrist Keith Ablow, bizarrely criticizing Michelle Obama’s efforts to encourage healthy eating for children, remarked that Michelle is a poor role model for her cause anyway as she could“stand to lose a few pounds.” When I relayed this story to my very favorite white man on earth and said that one of the several ways I found the comments so sickening was that they were racist, he replied that the comments were bad enough without my possibly appearing to “play the race card.” He is by far the most brilliant person I have ever known, but on this we will simply have to agree to disagree. I think that given the way black women’s bodies have been historically and are to this moment publicly contested space, a white man publicly making such a comment about a black woman’s body is inherently racist.
Way back in 1992 the Washington Post concluded that “the time-hallowed name bestowed upon the local National Football League champions — the Redskins — is really pretty offensive.” (Emphasis mine.)
A rough estimate based on occurrences of “redskin” in a WaPo site search going back to 2005 suggests that they have since deployed the offensive term ~83,000 times.
Today they announced they will no longer use the term. By “they,” I mean the editorial board. The news and sports divisions will carry on being pretty offensive.
Small victories are better than none at all, huh?
On the one hand, it’s nice to see someone as influential as the Post ed board doing the right thing. On the other hand, well, how many of you take 22 years – more than a goddamned generation – to stop doing something once you conclude that it’s wrong? They wrote that piece when George Bush – the Elder – was still president. Continue reading
Another book from the 2014 reading list composed of essays. This one, Literary Luxuries: American Writing at the End of the Millenium, is a collection of essays by writer, writing teacher, and litfic cheerleader Joe David Bellamy. Since this is a book of essays that range over a number of issues confronting the literary community, it seems logical to look at Bellamy’s book in sections. So, as I’ve done with a book of scholarly essays on popular music as protest, I’ll be looking at this work over a number of weeks. This will allow me to share Bellamy’s wide ranging discussions of issues such as of support for the arts (particularly literature), writers’ conferences, creative writing programs, and styles of literary fiction.
Bellamy has a lot to say about each of these areas (and others) and his opinions are – interesting might be the best word. I agree with some of his assessment of the state of litfic, some of it I would say probably needs updating, and some of it smacks of his personal biases. That last is not necessarily a bad thing – except when he resorts to trying to make literature style an object of political analysis. Continue reading
By now, anyone who has been paying attention is well aware of Facebook’s general user-unfriendly shenanigans, with the possible exception of Facebook’s support for net neutrality, to say nothing of all the minor aggravations users put up with on a daily basis…continually refreshing advertisements, live video popping up in the news feed, a news feed that doesn’t show you everything you mean to see, a newsfeed that occasionally reverts to Top Stories in spite of your every wish and command. Oh, but hey, there’s kittehs!
What kind of user-unfriendly shenanigans, one might wonder?
Robin Williams died yesterday, and when I heard the news I immediately thought of this collection of Daffy Duck toys I keep in an old-fashioned hanging bird cage in my basement. I have kept these toys in this way for years, collecting dust in a dark room, locked away like the picture of Dorian Gray.
It’s like I have collected iconographic bits of my own particular madness and put them in a teeny jail, though I have always thought of it as a shrine to Daffy, my God of Insanity.
One of the elements in current discussion of how technology is shaping society that is currently damned near worn out and pretty regularly debunked is the idea that the Internet gives artists some significant weapon that they can use against the hegemony of cultural gatekeepers who prevent deserving (in this case one should probably think of “deserving” as a weasel word) artists from receiving their due accolades as the geniuses they clearly are. While it’s true that the occasional genius like Psy or Grumpy Cat rises from the deluge of dreck to show us the way forward, the Internet has mostly been unkind to “content creators” – as artists are known in tech jargon. The people who control the technology have been those who have profited – often wildly – from the frenzy of artistic activity littering the Web.
Hegemony strikes again, it seems. As Mr. Townshend observed: “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss….”
The protest against cultural hegemony, in the case of this week’s essay from The Resisting Muse: Popular Music and Social Protest, dates to before the rise of the Internet. In a different take on the idea of protest, author Kathleen McConnell explores the rise and evolution of DIY music culture in the Pacific Northwest in her article “The handmade tale: cassette-tapes, authorship, and the privatization of the Pacific Northwest music scene.” While previous discussion in this series have focused on specific musical genres (metal and Goth)and their elements of protest (which both use technologies as tools of protest), this week’s essay looks directly at how a particular technology (cassette recording and reproduction devices) affected the rise of a music scene. Continue reading
It’s going on nearly two weeks now since LeBron James announced he was returning to Cleveland.
So who broke the story?
Well, Chris Sheridan was the first journalist to report that James was going back to Cleveland, reporting it on his website. But Lee Jenkins and Sports Illustrated had the actual story, “written” by James and posted online. Continue reading
1: Look! Look! See, Michael Sam is on TV being interviewed about non-football issues. He’s being a DISTRACTION! And why? Because … well, because Tony Dungy is in the media talking about how Sam is a distraction.
Don’t start no distraction, won’t be no distraction. Just saying. Continue reading
David Frost became an extremely successful comedian. His tours with Monty Python are celebrated to this day. Jeremy Paxman was newly-arrived in the US from Beirut where his explosive interview style had led to tension within the BBC.
His now infamous interrogation, in 1976, of Étienne Saqr of the Gardiens des Cèdres, whose militia massacred hundreds in Karantina in East Beirut, included 20 minutes of Paxman demanding, “Are you a genocidal maniac?” while Saqr threatened him with a machine gun. Continue reading
I bought Dave Davies’ “autobiography,” (it’s really a highly discursive memoir with plenty of digressions) Kink, about a year ago at my favorite used book store. I’d just read a couple of rock books, including a lovely memoir about meeting John and Yoko at the height of their “bed-in for peace” period and earlier I’d waded through a typical “rock bio” book about the Rolling Stones: you know the type, lots of pictures, very little reported that a serious fan wouldn’t already know – or know more about than the author.
Prior to taking up this yearly quest to write essays about all the books I read in a particular year (and, in the process, getting myself lots of recommendations from friends and pleas from fellow writers for book inclusions), I’d read a number of rock biographies and autobiographies, including biographies of The Beatles, Elvis, and Bob Dylan and the recent autobiographies of Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. In the queue for this year I have Dylan’s memoir, Pattie Boyd’s book about her marriages to George Harrison and Eric Clapton, and Pete Townshend’s autobiography.
I dig rock and roll music, as the song says…. Continue reading
Thanks to Facebook, we all see new memes every day. Some of them are funny, some insightful, and a lot are of the preaching to the choir variety, which even though they’re right as rain, they occasionally get tiresome. Like a lot of us, frustrated as hell with the sorry shape of our society and the deteriorating condition of our planet and the sheer hopelessness of mounting an assault against the mountain of cynical, corrupt cash standing between us and a solution, I guess I suffer from bouts of what we’ll call Fact Fatigue. If we’re intelligent, I fear, the truth is too much with us.
Every once in awhile, though, somebody sends one around that’s so on-point you can’t ignore it. Today, for instance, it was my friend Heather Sowards-Valey (she of Fiction 8 fame) sharing this one from Sciencegasm: Continue reading
I don’t know how many of you follow pro wrestling, but if you do, you’re fortunate. Because right now we’re witnessing the emergence of probably the most interesting new talent since Steve Austin discovered the Stone Cold gimmick. I’m talking, of course, about the mesmerizing Bray Wyatt.
Not only is Wyatt (real name Windham Rotunda) maybe one of the four or five best guys on the mic I’ve ever heard (Ric Flair, Austin, The Rock), he’s doing it with what is ultimately a political message. Continue reading