Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

At Least I’m Not Unoriginal…Or Am I?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

“Maybe, but at least I won’t be unoriginal.”  This is one of my favorite lines from Good Will Hunting, when Will tears down that ponytail guy in the Harvard bar.  Unfortunately, with seven billion people on the planet, it’s really hard to be a true original.  I was just talking to my brother who was at the Bulls vs Heat game last night and I told him to check out for my Chris Bosh post.  He laughed and told me, “Ha, that’s great…actually, the first play of the game a guy behind me stood up and yelled, ‘Chris Bosh is an Avatar!'”  Uh-oh.  I Googled ‘Chris Bosh Avatar’ and man!  It’s definitely out there.

I feel like I have independently come up some really great ideas…you know Charles Darwin went through the same exact thing.  While he was taking his sweet time putting together his theories of Natural Selection in On The Origin of Species a man named Alred Russel Wallace was putting forth the same concept.  Unfortunately, one of the people he put his concept forward to was Charles Darwin who was then prompted to rush out and beat Wallace to the punch.  I am just like Charles Darwin…or Wallace…but at least I’m the only one who compared Bosh to the female Avatar Neytiri.  I still call it a win for me.

Can’t Miss

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Everybody has some can’t miss artists.  People that when they come out with a new album, new book, or new movie, you will be there to experience it as soon as you can.  Here are just a few of mine:

Leonardo DiCaprio – Movies

This is the one guy in Hollywood that hasn’t disappointed in a long time.  Since DiCaprio did Catch Me If You Can he’s been great in everything and everything he’s done has been good.  He’s pretty choosy about his movies which makes it easier, it’s not like he’s pulling a Nicholas Cage and showing up every three months at the bottom of the box office with new hair.  Now this is my one category that has seen the most upheaval in can’t miss status.  First it was Tom Hanks and then I don’t see Tom Hanks anywhere (I only heard him as Woody in Toy Story 3) and at one point it was Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.  I will probably see those guys in just about anything, but I’m not giving them the status, DiCaprio has the status and I don’t think he’s going to be losing it any time soon.  According to IMDB he’s going to be in J. Edgar and Devil in the White City, based off the great book.  Well done, great choices.

David Gray – Music

If you know David Gray at all, most likely it’s because of his 1998 album White Ladder and the hit songs Babylon, Please Forgive Me, This Year’s Love, or Sail Away.  He’s my favorite musician and I’ll see him any time he comes to Chicago and I’ve bought every album and will buy every future release as well.  His sound has become richer over the years and he is always trying to learn something new in his sound but always he has been a lyrical poet as well.  If you think you know David Gray or you know you don’t know him, the absolute best way to experience this artist is to see him live.  He’s on tour again this February and March.  Hint, hint.

Bill Bryson – Books

When I was in seventh grade I got it into my head to find the biggest books in my school library and just start reading.  I’m talking about novels, too, I’m not talking about the Reference Section here.  The first huge book I picked up was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (fantasy and as it turns out a total ripoff of The Lord of the Rings, but how could I know that, I wouldn’t read the Rings trilogy for another seven years), then Shogun by James Clavell and Roots by Alex Haley.  I was huge into reading novels, I started reading espionage novels for a long stretch and eventually, I got to the point where I will read anything.  Yesterday I picked up the new book by Bill Bryson titled At Home.  I can tell already that this is going to be a great book.  In At Home, Bryson literally finds objects around his house an delves into the history of these things that we completely take for granted.  In a lesser writer the information Bryson conveys in his non-fiction books would be overwhelming.  If these writers could ever sift through the words in the first place, readers would be completely lost and overwhelmed or bored out of their minds, but Bill Bryson is a brilliant organizer and he enlightens his readers from truly unlikely subjects.  Most of the books Bryson used to write were travel books, through Europe or Australia, North America and they make for the best audio books out there (make sure to get the ones read by the author otherwise I will not endorse them).  I can’t miss Bill Bryson and I’ll keep filling my mind and my book shelves with his work as long as he keeps writing.

Modern Family – TV

If you’re not watching Modern Family do not start now.  We’re in the middle of the second season and there’s nothing I disapprove of more than when people think to themselves, “Well, a show is a show.  It’s not a big deal if I don’t know who any of these characters are or how the previous story lines may affect tonight’s episode.  I’ll just start watching right now.”  It’s about the journey as much as the destination so please rent or buy, you won’t regret it, season one of Modern Family and catch up.  This is the best show on TV right now, for sure the best sitcom.  With a great mix of characters, clever dialogue that plays to the height of the show’s intellect this show should go on forever.  Or until the kids are all grown up and things get awkward.

So, if I’m missing something, tell me.  If you’re missing these…boy…Get on it.

Travelling Feast

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Anthony Bourdain used to be a chef and a drug addict, but he caught his big break with his third book, Kitchen Confidential,and hasn’t looked back.  Since the book came out, Bourdain has written and eaten his way around the world, working on his TV show No Reservations and a number of other works besides.  Just recently he came out with the long-awaited follow-up to Kitchen Confidential called Medium Raw, and I had the chance to interview Anthony Bourdain about this book.

No I didn’t.  No way.  Not on that level.  I did see Bourdain in person though, in Waukegan, IL.  He got up in front of a big audience with nothing more than a sheet of notes and then he wandered around the stage for the next hour and a half, touching on topics he covered in the book and fielding questions from the audience like a real pro.  The book itself is really good.  As Bourdain would tell you himself, he is a much different person writing Medium Raw than he was when he wrote Kitchen Confidential and the books show this.

In this memoir-sequel, he talks about eating rare and illegal delicacies and rubbing elbows with the stars of the culinary world.  He still has that bite, that sting in his words.  He is a misanthrope still, but now he is a well-fed, happily-married, family man misanthrope.  He has to work a little harder to find the bitterness.  One of the best sections of the book is where he lists the heroes and villains of the food world, another bold chapter is titled, “Alan Richman is a Douchebag.”  That pretty much covers that chapter.  But the best part of the book is the transporting chapter about Food Porn where he takes you around the world, from Mexico to Vietnam, describing meals and their scenery so vividly you can taste them, feel them, see them.  That chapter more than any other feels like fiction, it’s so beautiful and so persuasive.

I think Medium Raw could have been reorganized to make it flow better, or maybe it could have been even further detached from Kitchen Confidential.  Late in the book, Bourdain spends a long chapter picking up thoughts he began ten years earlier and then justifying his beliefs then, his change in attitude now.  It loses a lot of the fun and energy he had earlier in the book because the writing late in the book belies the idea that Bourdain felt an obligation to justify the past or who he is in the present.

All in all, Bourdain is one of the best travel and food writers out there, he is definitely the best that’s also on TV.  He has a clear sense of style and an uncompromising identity.  He also lives a wholly enviable life.  Any few pages from Medium Raw is enough to show that.

Short List for Worst List Ever

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

I’m way behind on my Entertainment weekly’s.  All I’m seeing are covers and I’ve been too busy to open them up.  Iron Man 2. Katherine Heigl.   Sex and the City 2.  Then, I saw a cover with a bunch of characters on it.  Homer Simpson, Harry Potter, John Locke, Rachel from Friends, Ron Burgundy…and then Miranda something or something from The Devil Wears Prada…I started to think the list might be in trouble.

It was.

“The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years!”  That’s a title with confidence.  They just come out and say these are the best characters of the last 20 years.  EW is not saying, “Maybe these are the best and maybe we really blew it, maybe we’ll be totally devalued in the industry and the world after this list.”   They just said, “This is the list.  Come and get it.”  Well, let’s just come and get it then.  And they have the audacity to underline The and put an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence, like I’m supposed to respect this list and get excited.

I’m going to name the characters that show this list to be an embarrasment, either because of their order or simply their presence.

#3 Buffy the Vampire Slayer – what in the world?  I know the show was clever and well written, more so than you would assume, but they’ve got Buffy at 3 on the left page and on the right page, Tony Soprano at #4.  Now that takes something indescribable to look at those two pages next to each other and think you made the right decision.

#7 Edward Scissorhands – Don’t tell me you like this movie or this character as much as number 7.  It’s not possible.  We’re talking about 20 years of books, TV, movies and plays.

#12 Mulder and Scully – I’ve got no problems with them being on the list or being this high on the list, what I don’t get is why they’re on the list TOGETHER.  Just above them is Kramer and one page over is Carrie from Sex in the City. Later on in the list Woody from “Toy Story” is on his own.  No rhyme or reason with these idiots who made the list.  So stupid.

#16 Bridget Jones – Did these people forget that she made one movie and one terrible sequel.  I know there was a book as well, maybe that’s what they’re thinking, but how about a little clarification (Even if they were including the impact of the book, #16 is high).

#25 Woody – Maybe they didn’t include Buzz because they’d have to move these guys into the top ten and they wanted to make sure Scissorhands stayed up there so they could raise their artsy flag.

#29 Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield – These guys and their movie “Pulp Fiction” defined cool.  “Oh, Trevor, don’t forget about those guys from “Pulp Fiction”.”  Trevor: “Oh yeah.  Kobi, Google. those guys from Pulp Fiction, we’ve got to put them on here for everyone that’s in their 30’s or they’ll be pissed…OMG.”

#30 Steven Colbert – Why the hell is this guy a character?  He’s not a character.  He is a person.  An ironic personality or something, but not a character.  If he’s a character we’re all characters some time.  You think Paula Zahn acts like she does on TV at home.  I hope not.  Anyway, if this dude is a character, by their definition, Marilyn Manson doesn’t count as a character because he wears makeup EVERY DAY?  Lady Gaga isn’t a character?!  How about Madonna guys? Man they’re awful.

#33 Sarah Conner – If anyone from these movies makes this list it’s Schwarzenagger.  Give me a break.

#34 Cher from Clueless – Weak sauce.

#42 Sydney Bristow – from Alias is two spots ahead of Jack Bauer.  Evidently there are no editors working at EW anymore.  Budget cuts, you know the economy and everything.  So now, they just throw whatever they can at the page and hope we eat it up based on the headline.

#45 Stewie Griffin – Could have easily been ranked higher.  If you take a pulse of people today, right or wrong, they are all about The Family Guy and Stewie, sometimes at the expense of the The Simpsons even.

#49 Vivian Ward – You may not know her as anything other than “Pretty Woman”, but this Julia Roberts character is not #49 on the list.  She is much much higher (lower number), she has to be.

#55 Tracy Jordan – From 30 Rock.  This is the first entry that made me really question whether or not the list was even legitimate.  There is nothing aside from advertising dollars or somebody’s agent greasing the wheels that would have Tracy Jordan ahead of Alec Baldwin from the same cast or Tina Fey.  They didn’t even make the list.  This is INSANE!!!  Tracy Jordan is hilarious, but he’s just a side character, the goofball device they use to keep certain plotlines rolling and to throw in jokes.

#62 Jimmy Corrigan – Some dude from a graphic novel nomebody read.  Of the last 20 years, this is a big stretch.  They’ve got a lady from a play on here as well.  Nobody saw that, so they could have had a side window where they included the best characters of the last 20 years that nobody really cares about.  I’m all for putting some underappreciated characters out there for us to learn about, but this list is so jacked, I don’t want to hear their garb about who they think I need to see.

#63 John Locke – Sure, this makes sense.  One character from one of the greatest ensembles of all time (my favorite show ever) should be on his own on the list.  Oh, and  at number 63 instead of somewhere in the top fifteen (at the very least).  He’s two spots ahead of  THE GILMORE GIRLS!!! which is nice.

#67 Borat – 84% of America was speaking with a Borat accent for two full months around his movie and he’s been around for longer than that with the Ali G show, this is low for that kind of impact.

#70 Mary Katherine Gallagher – All right, this is for sure not the best SNL character of the last twenty years, but at least they’re thinking out of the box a little bit here.

#71 – Detective Alonzo Harris – This is the character Denzel Washington played in Training Day.  Totally undeserved Oscar and even though it was a cool character we’re talking about the last TWENTY years.

#75 – David Brent – We’re not very smart in America.  I’m going to see Ricky Gervais on September 30th at the Chicago Theatre.  He’s a genius.  Sure he’s not as good or influential as Annie Wilkes (#52) or Pearl the Landlord (#50) or Kavalier & Clay (#26).  Just forget about his groundbreaking television show The Office which won him two Golden Globes and worldwide recognition, spawning a second highly successful series (Extras), a string of movies and television appearances, a dominating standup tour, the world’s number one podcast and he was allowed to write an episode of The Simpsons.  Pretty good resume, and where did it all start?  #75.

#78 Patty Hewes – Glen Close from Damages.  Cool, I love putting someone on the list who nobody’s ever seen.  It’s fun that way.

#80 Gorillaz – Clearly, clearly the GREATEST musical act of the last twenty years.  Because they’re CARTOONS, too.  Wait, what?  You don’t get it.  Hm.

#82 Tracy Flick – This is Reese Witherspoon from Election.  What the what? Why in the world would she make the list?  I would have been all for the cast of American Pie, but Tracy Flick means these list guys are trying waaaaaaay too hard to impress somebody.  Who’s that somebody?  Themselves.

#87 Tony Stark – Iron Man, sweet.  This movie was great, surprisingly great, which was awesome.  But this character wasn’t written in the last twenty years.  Where do they draw the line?

#91 Hancock – This is when I knew that there was something going on in this list that wasn’t on the up and up.  There is no way this crap character from this downright awful crap movie made this list without a little Hollywood pushing.  Money pushing. Totally de-legitimized.

#93 Game Boys – They threw three videogame characters together into one slot (the ninety-third) despite the popularity and…whatever.  This is stupid, we all know it.  And I don’t play the videogames, I’m just trying to keep things fair.

#97 Violet Weston – Character from the stage drama August: Osage County.  Probably amazing.  We’re really lucky the person that went to this play also happened to be writing this list.

Worst List Ever. Ever…So far.