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If I Could Just Get It On Virtual Paper

Monday, November 28, 2005

Non-Fiction of 2005

As promised previously, I'll also be updating the non-fiction picks of 2005 as they come in. So far, not as many people have done big-time non-fiction lists, so we have fewer contenders than on last week's fiction list.

1. (tie) The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
1. (tie) Bury the Chains - Adam Hochschild
3. (tie) The Tender Bar - J.R. Moehringer
3. (tie) 1776 - David McCullough
3. (tie) Matisse the Master - Hilary Spurling
3. (tie) American Prometheus - Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherman

Sunday, November 27, 2005

NFL Picks: Week 12

Atlanta vs. Detroit:
Atlanta

Denver vs. Dallas:
Denver

St. Louis vs. Houston:
St. Louis

Kansas City vs. New England:
Kansas City

Minnesota vs. Cleveland:
Minnesota

Carolina vs. Buffalo:
Carolina

Tampa Bay vs. Chicago:
Chicago

Cincinnati vs. Baltimore:
Cincinnati

San Diego vs. Washington:
San Diego

Tennessee vs. San Francisco:
Tennessee

Oakland vs. Miami:
Oakland

Jacksonville vs. Arizona:
Jacksonville

Philadelphia vs. Green Bay:
Green Bay

Seattle vs. New York Giants:
Seattle

New Orleans vs. New York Jets:
New Orleans

Indianapolis vs. Pittsburgh:
Indianapolis

Friday, November 25, 2005

With the holiday season also comes that time of year when various publications and other entities start putting out their "Best Of" lists. This year, I thought I might tabulate the best books of the year according to the number of lists on which they appear. It at least provides a slight guideline to the fiction and non-fiction that is considered top-notch by a variety of sources. In order to appear on my list below, a book must have appeared on at least two lists. I'll start today with a fiction list, which I'll update every Friday until people stop doing 2005 lists. I'll do the same with non-fiction books, but I'll cover those on Mondays.

And so, without further ado, here are the fiction works of 2005 that are thus far catching the eyes of critics and other readers.


1. (tie) The March, by E.L. Doctorow
1. (tie) Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. (tie) On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
3. (tie) Saturday, by Ian McEwan
3. (tie) Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill
6. (tie) Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel
6. (tie) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
6. (tie) Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
6. (tie) Shalimar the Clown, by Salman Rushdie
10. (tie) Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
10. (tie) Envy, by Kathryn Harrison
10. (tie) Europe Central, by William T. Vollman
10. (tie) The Harmony Silk Factory, by Tash Aw
10. (tie) The Hot Kid, by Elmore Leonard
10. (tie) Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis
10. (tie) Maps for Lost Lovers, by Nadeem Aslam
10. (tie) No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
10. (tie) The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdich
10. (tie) The Sea, by John Banville
10. (tie) Slow Man, by JM Coetzee
10. (tie) Trance, by Christopher Sorrentino

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Who - Tommy and Quadrophenia Live
Part 3

Disc three of this set is my personal favorite, as it puts together a compendium of performances of a number of The Who's best songs. When put together with the first two DVDs, the set really is a terrific retrospective of the band's later concert tours.

The first set comes from the 1989 Tommy show highlighted on disc one. It starts off with "Substitute", one of the band's earliest singles (and one that I never heard getting much airplay through years of listening to classic rock). Other "greatest hits" type songs included in this performance are "I Can See for Miles", "Baba O'Reilly", "Love Reign O'er Me", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Who Are You?". For my part, I was excited to see two of my personal favorites, Pete Townshend's "Face the Face" and the '80s hit "You Better You Bet" (among my favorite songs ever, in fact). Also in the set is "Boris the Spider", a song that I grew to love in a long-ago television performance by the band. This song is performed by bassist John Entwisle, which Roger Daltrey providing some vocal support as well. Like the Tommy performance, these songs are extremely upbeat and just a blast to watch.

Set two is the encore from the Quadrophenia tour of 1996-1997. It replicates several songs from the Tommy set, but adds in stuff like "I Can't Explain", "The Kids Are Alright" and "Behind Blue Eyes". The final set closes out with more Tommy music, specifically "The Acid Queen" and "Pinball Wizard" performed by the band members rather than guest stars.

As a fan of The Who, I found this set to be entirely satisfying. It might not really be a great set for those who aren't fans of the band beyond their radio played greatest hits, but for diehards, I'd say it's a must-have.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Who - Tommy and Quadrophenia Live
Part Two

Yesterday, I looked at the Tommy portion of this three DVD set. Today, I'll review the Quadrophenia set.

Like Tommy, Quadrophenia was billed as a rock opera, though it was perhaps a little bit less accessible than the former (it's probably just by a matter of degrees). The story centers on a young man named Jimmy who has a form of schizophrenia where he has four separate personalities - which is the source of the title "Quad"rophenia. The songs in the live performance of the opera are bookmarked by narration from the young man who portrays Jimmy, Alex Langdon. His four distinct personalities are as follows: a tough guy/helpless dancer; a romantic; a bloody lunatic; and a beggar/hypocrite. Four songs serve as the themes for these personalities - Helpless Dancer, Doctor Jimmy, Bell Boy, and Love Reign O'er Me. As on the album, the live performances intertwines elements of the songs with each other to keep a continuous thematic element going. Additionally, footage from the 1930s, '40s. '50s and '60s is displayed to punctuate the narrative. Some of the clips include early glimpses of The Who themselves, including the never forgotten Keith Moon.

While this performance feels slightly less energetic and over-the-top than Tommy, it's no less entertaining. The music and the subject matter are complex, with different time signatures and unusual chord progressions. There are also fewer guest appearances, though Billy Idol is still on hand along with Simon Townshend and PJ Proby. While Tommy was filmed in 1989, this footage came from 1996-97. It's a performance that matches up well with one of the most intelligent, multifaceted albums of the rock era.

Tomorrow, I'll cover the third disc in the set, which is composed of some additional performances from both the Tommy and the Quadrophenia tour, along with one other concert.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Who - Tommy and Quadrophenia Live
Part One

When it comes to the classic bands that got their start in the '60s, you'll often find people divided into camps. There's the people who see The Beatles as the standard bearers, and you also have those who take the part of The Rolling Stones. Led Zeppelin even has the attention of the harder rock fans. For me, though, it was always The Who, which meant that I was excited to see a new 3-DVD set of some of their concert performances released earlier this month.

Disc one is a live performance of the rock opera Tommy, which originally came to life in album form and then saw subsequent adaptation as both a movie (featuring the members of The Who) and a Broadway musical. It was the first such conceptual project ever specifically billed as a rock opera, and was primarily composed by bassist Pete Townshend. The story is a fictional biography of one Tommy Walker, whose witnessing of a murder at his father's hands causes him to retreat into self-imposed deafness, muteness and blindness. His parents try to find a cure for him, but matters only become worse for Tommy as he is abused both physically and sexually by extended family members. He responds to pinball and masters the game. Ultimately, Tommy is cured, at which point he comes to view himself as a messiah figure. He tries to lead his followers to enlightenment, but his heavy-handed methods and some exploitation from family members cause them to revolt.

The performance, which took place during The Who's 1989 tour, is raucous and full of life. A number of guest stars are on hand to make the show even more impressive, including Patti LaBelle, Phil Collins, Billy Idol, Steve Winwood and of course, Elton John. Collins in particular takes up his role of Uncle Ernie with a glee and aplomb that borders on almost creepy (but that's pretty appropriate given the character's iniquity). Billy Idol is also ridiculously fun.

As for the three main performers from The Who, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, they're energetic and obviously having a blast. That enthusiasm is infectious as you view the DVD, too. One item of note that might bother some purists is the fact that Townshend does most of his playing on acoustic guitar (which was likely due to hearing loss issues that had come to the forefront in that time frame). I'm always a rather big fan of acoustic, anyway, so it didn't bother me.

I'll take a look at the Quadrophenia disc tomorrow, and follow up with a review of the third disc, a combination of three different tours, on Wednesday. I'll go ahead and say upfront that I enjoyed the third disc so much that I had it playing just as background while I did other work for several days in a row.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Week 11 NFL Picks

Washington vs. Oakland:
Washington

Cleveland vs. Miami:
Miami

Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh:
Pittsburgh

Dallas vs. Detroit:
Dallas

Jacksonville vs. Tennessee:
Jacksonville

St. Louis vs. Arizona:
St. Louis

New England vs. New Orleans:
New England

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia:
New York Giants

Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay:
Atlanta

Carolina vs. Chicago:
Chicago

Seattle vs. San Francisco:
Seattle

Denver vs. New York Jets:
Denver

San Diego vs. Buffalo:
San Diego

Indianapolis vs. Cincinnati:
Indianapolis

Kansas City vs. Houston:
Kansas City

Green Bay vs. Minnesota:
Green Bay

NFL Picks - Week 11

Washington vs. Oakland:
Washington

Cleveland vs. Miami:
Miami

Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh:
Pittsburgh

Dallas vs. Detroit:
Dallas

Jacksonville vs. Tennessee:
Jacksonville

St. Louis vs. Arizona:
St Louis

New England vs. New Orleans:
New England

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia:
New York Giants

Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay:
Atlanta

Carolina vs. Chicago:
Carolina

Seattle vs. San Francisco:
Seattle

Denver vs. New York Jets:
Denver

San Diego vs. Buffalo:
San Diego

Indianapolis vs. Cincinnati:
Indianapolis

Kansas City vs. Houston:
Kansas City

Green Bay vs. Minnesota:
Green Bay

Sunday, November 13, 2005

NFL Picks - Week 10

Buffalo vs. Kansas City:
Buffalo

Chicago vs. San Francisco:
Chicago

Jacksonville vs. Baltimore:
Jacksonville

Detroit vs. Arizona:
Detroit

Indianapolis vs. Houston:
Indianapolis

New England vs. Miami:
Miami

New York Giants vs. Minnesota:
New York Giants

Carolina vs. New York Jets:
Carolina

Denver vs. Oakland:
Denver

Seattle vs. St. Louis:
Seattle

Atlanta vs. Green Bay:
Atlanta

Washington vs. Tampa Bay:
Washington

Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland:
Pittsburgh

Philadelphia vs. Dallas:
Dallas

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Epileptic, by David B.

If you like your graphic novels unique and superhero-free, there's been a run of fantastic work in the genre recently. I've talked up Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and its sequel plenty. This year, French artist David B. had a big compilation of his master work, Epileptic released in the United States. The book is massive and completely engrossing. It centers on David B.'s lifetime as he grows up with a brother who suffers from epileptic seizures. They're quite severe, causing the young man to ask his family to explore various avenues of treatment with him. As a result, David B. finds himself stuck in communes and other weird places as his parents attempt to find his brother the help he needs. It's clear that even as a youngster, the author found his freedom and escape in writing stories, most of them full of demons that probably related pretty strongly to his experiences. It's a devastating, intelligent book deserving of much attention. Even if you've never picked up a graphic novel or comic book in your life, this is one that deserves a look.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

NFL Picks - Week 9

I'm not particularly thrilled with a lot of these, but here they are nonetheless.

Cincinnati vs. Baltimore:
Cincinnati

Atlanta vs. Miami:
Atlanta

Detroit vs. Minnesota:
Detroit

San Diego vs. New York Jets:
San Diego

Carolina vs. Tampa Bay:
Carolina

Cleveland vs. Tennessee:
Tennessee

Jacksonville vs. Houston:
Jacksonville

Kansas City vs. Oakland:
Kansas City

Chicago vs. New Orleans:
Chicago

Seattle vs. Arizona:
Seattle

New York Giants vs. San Francisco:
New York Giants

Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay:
Pittsburgh

Washington vs. Philadelphia:
Philadelphia

Indianapolis vs. New England:
Indianapolis


 
     


 
 

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