Sunday, January 20, 2008

"The Ruins" = Horr(or)ific "Little Shops of Horrors"

It's probably not a good sign when you are waiting for Seymour Krelborn to appear and for the antagonist to break out in song to "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space," right? Such was the mindset when I was reading Scott Smith's "The Ruins."

I would call myself a fan of Smith's first novel, "A Simple Plan" (which shares some similarities with Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men") but to say I was underwhelmed with "The Ruins" is solid understatement. Although the novel starts off well, once the doomed end up on a hill they cannot escape -- on page 77, less than one-fifth of the way through -- it quickly runs out of steam. It's on the pile of books I am ready to trade back to the Strand.

Now I see that a movie adaptation is coming out in April. Ho hum, beware the plants.

Friday, January 18, 2008


...despite the fact that the blog has apparently moved to a quarterly format (like Lapham's!), I should just move to Tumblr platform. Apparently, all the cool kids are doing it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Taken October 12, 2007. One of my favorite photos, for sure.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

5 of 11 "SNL" Castmembers Love Arcade Fire

Reporting from 30 Rockerfeller Center: Want to to know why Arcade Fire ran off the stage during the closing credits of "Saturday Night Live" last night?

Because, in something that is apparently rarely done at Studio 8H, they played a mini-concert for the audience. Making up the front row of the 3-song set was Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Andy Samberg, all looking absolutely transfixed by this band. The Fire has some high-powered fans, for sure, and converted a good chunk of the audience last night as well.

It's odd that my highlight of the show happened off-camera-- at the end of their three-song set, they played "Wake Up", off the stage and in the audience. Amazing. The cameras were rolling, I'm hoping this appears somewhere.

Also a funny tidbit: Five seconds before the show went back live for Arcade Fire's second song, Rainn Wilson looked at lead singer Win Butler and, in a very deadpan voice, asked what happened to his guitar (he had smashed it during their first song). Ha.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I'm Breaking Up With You, Time Magazine

I'm sorry, Time Magazine: it's not me, it's you.

Please don't make this harder than it already is. We've have been through a lot together, but I think it's time we went our separate ways. I'm guessing that I started reading you in my early teens; you were the first serious newsmagazine I ever read (sorry, Highlights). I believe I've read almost every issue since then. You flattered me in December (cf. the cover at right), but I can't return your feelings. I'm walking away the next time I get a note begging me to renew.

Why? Mostly, it's because I just can't keep up with you.

You moved your publication date to Fridays, which presents a problem-- I can't spend my entire weekend reading magazines. On the same day you arrive, I also get my guilty pleasure, Entertainment Weekly, as well as a trio of your competitors, BusinessWeek, The Economist and The Week. Then, on Sunday, the New York Times Magazine drops. I can only read so much and not be a hermit.

Also, you've changed a great deal-- which is not a bad thing, we all change. But I just don't think we're a fit. Since managing editor Rick Stengel came aboard, the cover stories have become intriguing -- but ultimately boring -- and the copydesk needs to take its red pen out more to green the long-winded screeds that permeate the magazine. Worst of all, I can't stand the conservative slate of columnists, like Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and Joe Klein. How about some balance, like the insertion of some progressive columnists?

I'm sorry. I know this hurts, but I just can't do this any more. I hold out hope that one day we can reconnect.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Worth Seeking Out: Robert Chalmers

The offbeat Bristish author Robert Chalmers is a little off the beaten path, but worth seeking out. Think Nick Hornby with an edge, and a dash of the absurd.

In his 2002 debut novel "Who's Who in Hell", the Brit spun a tale of an obituarist putting together a compendium of the world's worst. It's an angsty novel, as the main character struggles to find his niche and grow up. In his latest, which actually came out in 2004 but I only read now, he writes another tale of one finding himself. "Fortune's Bastard" is actually a little hard to synposize, so here's the description from the book's dust jacket:

"One morning Edward Miller, tabloid newspaper editor and reactionary alpha male, spontaneously seduces his temp in an office storeroom. The news doesn't take long to reach his cold, beautiful wife-- and it just happens to be their anniversary. By morning, his marriage is over, his career in shambles, and his house is on fire. Clearly, it's time to leave town. After a brief stint in Spain as an English teacher, Miller flees again when his cover is blown, winding up in a Florida town populated by carnies and circus freaks and ruled with an iron fist by the Half Man, a criminal and sadist with no legs. Unexpectedly, despite even a one-eyed albino hit man who seems to overhear every compromising conversation between Miller and the Half Man's wife the Lizard Woman, Miller gradually realizes this may be where he belongs."
Weird, right? Hidden between the rolling narrative are some nice little moments. Here's one: Miller, drunk, being told that the car he finds himself in is not a cab, but driven by a regular joe that stopped at a red light and found someone getting in the back seat.

If you can, definitely seek out Chalmers and pray for more novels by the talented writer to come.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Be Back in a Bit.

Work is taking precedence right now, I'll post more in February.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

"Joey, Do You Like Movies About Gladiators?"

"Airplane!" is a rare film. One that if I were to find it playing on some television channel, I would literally stop what I was doing and curl up on the couch to watch. The outside world stops and productivity be damned. Between the sight gags and the written words, the film is genius. Honestly, I've watched it far too many times to count at this point, and will continue to do so.

So, I'm always looking for the "Airplane" moments in life-- where you can riff off of one of the classic lines from the film. A real opportunity, not the ubitiquous "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines". Finally, one presented itself this past week.

From an IM exchange with a female friend:
Friend: He hasn't even been able to say those three little words.
Me: What words?
Friend: I love you.
Me: I love you too, but what are the three little words?

I quietly chuckled to myself the rest of the day.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A 'No Vacancy' Bookshelf Sign

As you can probably tell from my recent spate of posts, I already have far too many books in my small, cramped apartment. It hasn't gotten to the point yet that I've put twenty books in a pillow cover and begun sleeping on them, but I do have 30 books waiting to be read. As I speak, they're balancing precariously on top of my armoire and I'm typing softly in order to not disturb them from their Jenga-like state.

Part of this amassed collection no doubt comes via buying into the mentality of an ex several years ago, be it fortunately or not. She would go to Strand every so often, buy two cartons of books to haul home and justify this act by reasoning that she is "giving them a home". In her mind, used books were like a cute puppy at a pound.

So I have conflicted emotions when a New York City bookstore closes. The latest is Murder Ink, an Upper West Side bookstore that focuses on mystery/noir (and my particular favorite genre). It closes its doors for good tomorrow after being around for 34 years. I've trekked up to its location every 3 months or so to browse and buy, and it's well-known to genre fans; honestly, I'm really hurt to see it go.

So one of the two emotions is sadness, in losing a favorite. But here's the other part: Vulture that I can be, I made sure to visit it in its final days to add books to my 'to-be-read' pile. To a bibliophile like myself, there's a certain giddiness, derived from some primal urge, in buying a bunch of books at one time.

But the mood at Murder Ink was not anything you'd expect it to be today-- it wasn't scavengers fighting over a choice item like what one might see at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving or the haggling one finds at a yard sale. This was far different from the final night at CBGB's, another institution that closed this year. It was quiet and respectful, with many murmurs of "I'm so sorry about the closing" as people left the store. They asked about how the owner was doing and what the gals who manned the counters would be doing next. It was almost funerial and somber in tone. Given the clientele, I'm not sure why I'm so surprised-- it probably was the recent Christmas shopping frenzy.

But, on a somber occasion like this when you're talking about a mom and pop store, it was good to see the treated with the respect it deserved. The customers were truly giving the items from Murder Ink a home.

Friday, December 29, 2006

E-Media Tidbits, Take Note

This is a great concrete example of print media harnessing the power of the blogosphere: The New York Daily News needed to fill two pages for its Holiday Beauty Gift Guide on December 17. They turned to Beauty Addict blogger Kristen Kelly, born and bred in New York City. This is the result. Everybody wins here.

While I'm guessing this was a one-off (Orla Healy is still on staff as their beauty editor), this is a perfect case study of a newspaper leveraging its readership base's specialized knowledge for content. Kristen gets added visibility and (hopefully) a nice freelance check. Will there be more of this in the future over at the Daily News, perhaps?

(Disclosure: Kristen is a friend and I'm incredibly excited for her on this.)