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If I Could Just Get It On Virtual Paper

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pop Culture Weekly

I got this idea from a fellow blogger (thanks, Jake!) awhile back, and thought I'd go ahead and incorporate it as a fun weekly feature here on the Hollis Blog. Each week, I'll offer a brief snapshot of the stuff that currently is capturing my attention.

Books

Currently Reading:
The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

Next in the Queue:
Layer Cake, by J.J. Connolly

Most Recently Purchased:
Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America, by Morgan Spurlock

Collected Poems, by Stevie Smith

Music

Since I don't really focus on albums all that much (though I have recently been listening to the new Audioslave and Green Day's American Idiot), this section will instead center on what is playing on my iPod shuffle. This week's stuff is embarrassingly '80s-centric.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Tesla Girls
Prince – I Would Die 4 U
Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer
The Shins – Caring Is Creepy
Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.
Prince - 1999
The Police – Oh My God
Public Enemy - Pollywannacracka
Audioslave – Your Time Has Come
Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now


Movies

Most Recently Seen:
Batman Begins (I give it a solid A)
Serenity (also a solid, solid A)

Most Anticipated:
Howl's Moving Castle (I'm so aggravated that it hasn't come to my town yet)


TV

Currently Watching:
The O.C. Season One on DVD - The show has its ups (Samaire Armstrong, Peter Gallagher, the interaction between Benjamin McKenzie and Adam Brody) and downs (I want zombies to eat Oliver Trask in a painful death so that I can then proceed to shoot Zombie Oliver Trask in the head), but it's surprisingly fun.

30 Days - I cover this documentary series from Morgan Spurlock in the most recent edition of Shiny Things.

Entourage - A terrific, very insider look at what it's like to live the Hollywood life.

Most Anticipated:
When is Deadwood coming back, exactly?


Video Games

Currently Playing:
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones - It's not much different from the first Fire Emblem for the GameBoy, but that's fine with me. I've always believed that the GameBoy is an ideal port for the RPG, and I think that's why I can find myself easily becoming engrossed in a game that is so portable. On a fun note, this game has monsters, which the first game certainly did not.

Most Anticipated:
Nintendogs for the DS - Yes, I'm a dog lover, and I can't wait to play with this.

Animal Crossing for the DS - Please. Give. Me. Some. Crack.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Book 36: A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby

I should probably start this by saying that I'm a huge Hornby fan and was eagerly anticipating this book as one of the most intriguing of the year. By chance, it came out exactly the same week as Bruce Campbell's new novel - and I have to say it was a good week indeed. Hornby, who has also written such terrific stuff as High Fidelity and About a Boy, centers this novel around four very different individuals who meet under unusual circumstances on New Year's Eve. By unusual, I mean that they have all gone to the top of the same building with the intention of committing suicide. It doesn't sound like a very happy concept for a book, does it? Nonetheless, it's an upbeat story about how people who don't necessarily like each other all that much can help each other in extraordinary conditions. Hornby switches from character to character, telling each of their stories in first person. It's a smart way of emphasizing the very different personalities of each distinct individual. It's a substantial improvement over his last fiction work, How to Be Good, which frankly left me a little hollow. I highly recommend this book and also his previous one, The Polysyllabic Spree, a compilation of some of his columns from The Believer magazine.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Father, Son

With Father's Day coming up this weekend, I'd like to point out a really nice video card for the occasion from Peter Gabriel. His song Father, Son is a lovely portrayal of a touching relationship, and a terrific way to wish your dad a great holiday. The video is included on the card and can be personalized. It's a pretty poignant video, in my opinion.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Book 35: Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, by Bruce Campbell

It's pretty difficult for me to objectively review this book. After all, I've loved Campbell going all the way back to the days when I was watching The Evil Dead over and over again on video when I was a high school student in the '80s. I drooled over him when The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. was on the air (and was probably one of ten people watching the show), loved him as Autolycus in Hercules and Xena, and even watched and loved Jack of All Trades. I was reduced to a mumbling fool when I met him a couple of years ago during his book tour for his first book, If Chins Could Kill, and was thrilled when he acknowledged a column I did about his minor roles (I believe the phrase he used was "Stalky indeed"). And so it was that I kind of kept watch for the release of this book, a novel about a B-actor named Bruce Campbell who somehow finds himself cast in a Mike Nichols film alongside Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger.

Suffice it to say the book had me laughing at loud from practically its very first page. Campbell's willingness to poke fun at himself is always great for numerous gags, and the freaky morphed pictures that appear throughout the book are a marvelous touch. One visual aid that had me laughing a lot was Campbell's laundry list of all the roles he claims Christopher McDonald has stolen from him, including that of The Iron Giant's Kent Mansley (a particular favorite movie of mine).

As for the story, let's just say that the seemingly upscale, $35 million production goes terribly awry. Read the book. You'll laugh a lot. (It's a quick read, too, so there are no excuses.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Book 34: Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson

I had been intending to read this book for awhile, as I'd seen it recommended from a variety of different sources, but when it appeared as the Litblog Co-Op's "Read This" selection for Summer, I went ahead and moved it on up the list. Because we all like to categorize things in order to more easily describe them, it would be easy to pigeonhole Case Histories into a simple "Genre Fiction" selection. That would be a mistake, for although the book is at its base a mystery novel, the stories go so much deeper and the characters are so involved and complex that the novel becomes more significant and genre-busting.

The book begins by giving the three distinct case histories of the title. The first took place some 30 or more years in the past, with a beloved three-year-old girl disappearing from a tent where she is sleeping with her older sister. Then we shoot ahead 25 years or so to a bizarre murder that occurs in an office building. The 18-year-old girl seems to be the victim of a random act of violence, and her father is left in tatters. Finally, we have a young 18-year-old mother of a new baby whose frustration with her husband eventually leads to a graphic situation with an axe.

After the fact, all three of these cases come to be investigated by Jackson Brodie, who ultimately finds some strange threads that connect them (although tenuously in most cases). We become intimately familiar with Julia and Amelia Land, the sisters of the young girl who disappeared, as well as Theo Wyre, who is still deep in grief over the loss of his daughter ten years after her murder. As for the young mother, her story unfolds somewhat differently, but is no less interesting for the way we learn about her character. Right in the midst of all that, the reader grows to know about Jackson and his own past and present.

My one small complaint with the novel might be that it's pretty easy to predict what's going to happen, but that's really only because Atkinson does such a masterful job of creating her characters that we can piece together how things came to be. It's not just her character creation that is wonderful, either. Atkinson is simply a beautiful writer, using simple concise language to impart emotion, whether it be elation, sadness or even disgust. We live with the characters of Case Histories through their highs and lows, and when the story finally comes to its resolution-that-isn't-really-a-resolution, it's satisfying. The book makes for an outstanding summer read and is a book that I hope to pick up again in the future and re-read with the full knowledge of what will occur in the end.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Book 33: The Inner Circle, by T.C. Boyle

This book is a fictionalized account of the life of Alfred Kinsey as seen through the eyes of one of his assistants in research. After reading the book, I found myself wishing that last year's biopic of the infamous sex researcher had taken this approach, as it made for a deeper, more emotionally impacting story. Where the film primarily centered on Kinsey himself and the effects his beliefs and devotion to his cause had on his own health and personal relationships, with The Inner Circle, the reader is made privy to a man who is far more ambivalent about what he is doing than Kinsey. Kinsey, after all, fervently believed in what he was studying and contended that sex between humans was an act driven purely by animal instinct. The protagonist of The Inner Circle, John Milk, was not a real person involved in Kinsey's life, but is clearly based on the professor's research associate Clyde Martin. We see Milk evolve from naïve undergraduate student who discovers Kinsey in the professor's marriage course to a young disciple who eagerly accepts the man's teachings as he goes to work for the man. Once Milk marries his young sweetheart, however, things get ever more complicated. Though Milk completely agrees with the tenet that any sex amongst the "inner circle" is purely for research purposes, he does have trouble reconciling it with his own feelings for his wife and her reaction to what is happening around her. The book offers a fascinating look at marriage and relationships through a very unusual avenue, showing the personality of the professor through the eyes of a young man who alternately loved and was befuddled by him. I actually believe that reading the book and watching last year's biopic in tandem could make for a strong educational experience.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Book 32: The Legend of Buddy Bush, by Sheila P. Moses

This book is so terrific that it makes me remember why I took that Literature for Pre-Adolescents course in college in the first place. Kids' literature is abundant with wonderfully-written stuff, and this book received a nomination for the National Book Award as well as being an honor book for the 2005 Coretta Scott King Award. The story is elegant in its simplicity as it tells of a transitional time when racial relations were strained, though African-Americans were beginning to stand strong for themselves. The story is told from the point of view of Pattie Mae, a 12-year-old who has big dreams of moving to Harlem along with her sister and brother some day. She lives in a former slave house with her mother, and down the road from her kindly grandparents, who proudly own their own home and have the strength to challenge long-standing notions about acceptable treatment from whites. Buddy Bush is her uncle, a young man who her grandparents had adopted into their own family as a youngster. He has returned to their North Carolina home after living in Harlem himself, and works in a local sawmill. Things are turned topsy-turvy when a white woman (wrongly) accuses him of attempted sexual assault. Moses based many of the characters in the book on real historical figures and family members, which lends a true air of authenticity to the events. I'd recommend it as excellent reading for any youngster.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Book 31 - Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore

I'm really kind of sorry that I've been so late to the game in discovering Christopher Moore. I started out by reading his most recent book, The Stupidest Angel, over the Christmas holidays as I was kind of looking for a story that was appropriate to the season. After completing it, I was won over and decided that I should try to pick up a couple of his other works, and I'm sure glad I did. Lamb is a satirical look at what happened during the life of Jesus Christ *before* the years that are primarily covered in the gospels. Naturally, the story is told by Jesus's best friend Levi who is called Biff. The two grow up together as children, head out in search of truth when Jesus (or Joshua as he is called in the book) decides that he doesn't know how to be Christ. In their journeys, they visit the three wise men who had attended Joshua's birth - one of them a mystic magician well-versed in the ways of the Chinese, one a Buddhist monk, and the other a minimalist hermit of sorts. The book is funny and probably sacrilegious, but if a person is so shaky as to let a story like this rattle their faith, they might be in trouble anyway. Moore's writing reminds me of Carl Hiassen, one of my favorite writers, and while I wouldn't say he's been perfectly consistent so far, I've really enjoyed both his books. For some reason, his portrayal of angels as some of the stupidest beings ever really tickles me.

On a wholly separate note, Bruce Campbell's new book Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way hits stores today. Go buy it. You know you want to.


 
     


 
 

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