Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Drinking at the Movies, 31/100

Finished Julia Wertz's terrific graphic memoir Drinking at the Movies, which I found by surprise at the library. I always populate my amazon wishlist with books I think I'll never come across in real life. What a surprise when you just so happen to walk up on one, sitting there with it's real cover in all its glossy splendor, which you've only seen in pixels for so long. It's happened to me twice this week. First I found Drinking, then I came across the graphic novel Skim, which has been in my wishlist since 2009, in a local bookstore. See! Libraries and bookstores aren't dead! You just might have to wait two or more years to get what you want. No biggie.

I can relate to the main character in Drinking at the Movies more than I care to admit. So I don't live in Brooklyn. But compared to where I grew up, my current digs make me feel like I am. This comic is self deprecation at its finest, and I identified with every instance of laziness, booziness, frumpiness and introversion. Overall it was super funny and cute (cute in a profanity-laden, poop joke sorta way). And yet touching when it needed to be.

The sad thing is she officially has more food in her fridge than I do. But I have more pajama pants! (wait, shouldn't be proud of that)

The last time I drunk netflix'd I ordered Big Man Japan. When it arrived I decided to watch it drunk, and what proceeded was one of the most profoundly surreal and confusing experiences of my life.

You can check out more of Julia Wertz's comics at, where else,

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad, 30/100

Is it a novel? Is it a short story collection? No one knows. But Jennifer Egan's book A Visit from the Goon Squad IS the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner.

I've been see-sawing on this book. Gorgeously written. But maybe a bit too "gotcha." I found myself saying out loud "this is completely unbelievable," and my usual reading material covers the adventures of wizards and dragons.

Egan's book is a collection of shorts, each with recurring characters, which blurs the line between novel and story collection. Where the genius comes in is in the structure. Each chapter takes us to a different POV, focusing on a different character, and to what appears to be a random point in the ultimate timeline. The chapters aren't chronological, which some reviewers have found a bit confusing and jarring, but which I found made the stories infinitely more interesting. (If you're reading it and are having some trouble piecing the timeline together, check out this rundown in questionland).

My beef came with how Egan ended many of the chapters. In several of them, she would insert a one-two punch to wrap it up -- making some revelation about a character's future that takes us away from the current time and POV into an almost omniscient POV -- which IS jarring, and made me want to stop reading altogether.

Ex: That nice chapter you just read about the boy and his father? Well, guess what, the boy kills himself when he gets older. KA-CHOW. The end. Next chapter!

Nevermind that a later chapter covers this (and much better, by the way).

But besides the unnecessary jumpiness inside the individual shorts, the structure was genius. In A Visit from the Goon Squad the goon is time. And with every page we're shown how we change over the years. How we're not the same person we were in 1992, or in chapter 3, or on page 59. When you see the change gradually, chronologically, the impact isn't as noticeable. But if there was a book of your life, and you read chapter 7 first, then chapter 2, then the backcover blurb...just how different would it look.

I didn't mark any passages. However there was one chapter that stood out in particular, "Great Rock and Roll Pauses," -- being made up entirely of PowerPoint slides. If you have a soft spot for music nerdom, charts and graphs, or Microsoft Office products, here's a video of the entire chapter:

Thursday, July 14, 2011


"Harry Potter via Che Guevara" by Tao Lin, Link

It's the end of an era!

Unless, of course, Harry Potter goes the way of Star Wars and continues making squintillions of dollars through toys, prequels, etc. I mean, it has it's on theme park already.

I'll be at the midnight showing tonight. It's going to be an all out nerd partay!

So here are some Potterish things on the internet to help celebrate.

There's a Kate Beaton comic, showing the adventures of Tiny Hermione.

For anyone who's all like "what's a Harry Potter?", there's a comic chronicling the entire series.

Then there's what the film series would like if included in the Criterion collection. Fancy!

And here's an excellent video that I couldn't recommend more. It will make any fan squeal just a little bit.

Be sure to check out genrocks' other videos as well. She has a mash-up of Fight Club and the Britney Spears song "Circus", and it WORKS.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Internet Lovelies

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July. And for all the Canadians, hope you had a great Canada Day. There's a Kate Beaton comic for you as well. I spent America's birthday on my couch sick with food poisoning, watching 1776 on TV. Seeing Mr. Feeny run about in tights and sing of American independence is jarring but enjoyable. I also started David McCullough's bestselling biography of John Adams. But now may not be the best time to start a 750 page biography of a colonial icon. Although it's really absorbing so far.

Here are some internet quotes for all you independent people out there.

Minimalism as a productive style can be very affective, alarming and satisfying, but I don’t think there ever was a pure strain of it. For a time, it was just a kettle into which many a strange fish were flung. Now with America’s miniaturization if not irrelevance in the world, it might return to the short story in grim and freshened renewal. Certainly the days of the giddy blowhard are over. I hope.
Joy Williams, Link

Maybe life is one giant disorganized flash mob, a cute point that is still being made. A 6.77 billion people fucked up flash mob without a clear recipient. Some people go to the movies, some girls go to Japan, some OD on heroin, some steal their mom’s BMW, and some guys walk to Walgreen’s for shampoo (I had hair then) at 7:42 pm on a Friday night, the night this apparently really good movie was opening, and decide to walk 3 miles to the Boardwalk, somewhat masochistically in flip flops, entering the ocean, until the coldness bites his shins, and he hears the effortless grasp of waves recoiling back into the ocean, the hiss of its waters seeping into the sand, and the chalky cosmic zit of the moon saying I have let you see this. I think I kept going back because I needed an edge of this world. Night will make the water black, cola. There’s no point in truth because we are only eyes.
Jimmy Chen, Link

wish i had a crowd of spectators like that bro on Man vs Food in here with me rooting while i refresh Facebook and lay on the floor

Every time I get on Facebook.

Status Update: I may not be living The American Dream like you, but I do have a degree from a private liberal arts university, and that is where I learned that while the possibilities granted by freedom may not always lead to a Successful Life, they do often result in a satisfying sense of superiority. Unlike nearly everyone I graduated high school with, I remain unencumbered by children, a spouse, or the e-moans of e-animal-husbandry on Farmville. Therefore, feelings of superiority arise from knowledge of the following freedoms: I am not forced to explain to anyone why looking at politician/ celebrity dick pics online is not the same as cheating; I can travel to developing countries plagued with women’s rights/ human trafficking problems without worrying that my inevitable kidnapping will devastate anyone and/ or become the basis for a sappy Lifetime movie; etc.
CJ Hallman, Link

On writing with internet access:
that kind of feed of the surrounding world can be rejuvenating, even while it eats your time. I don’t know, I like to have the onslaught of things coming at my head, and then write in streams of focus and click back out, have somewhere to go and not slog through writing endlessly. It’s like a perpetual reset button, though it can get the better of you if you let it, I imagine. If I didn’t have that set up at this point, like I was writing in a log cabin, I would feel claustrophobic and antsy and weird, whereas the internet lets me feel like I’m in a much bigger room, even if the room is idiotic.
Blake Butler, Link

like my best friend geoff, we see each other mayyyyyyybe once a month despite living close, usually less, but we’ve had this intense email chain going since 2002, have probably exchanged about 1000+ printed pages a year, and that’s a really satisfying interaction for me because those conversations have zero filler. but again, the fact that i have a mostly email relationship with my nearest and dearest friend probably says something about how much i’m failing at being a socially integrated person.
Andrea Seigel, Link

My mom has a Buddhist shrine-type thing to which she prays whenever she wants something bad, a new love for me, an old heart for my dad, or just that new Burberry spring coat. I tell her that Buddhism is essentially self-death, but so masochistic you can’t even kill yourself. Of course, I don’t say it in those words. “Ma, it’s about letting go, not holding on,” I say, with condescending italics. She looks at me calmly and lovingly as her child, the invoice of a liberal education branded on my forehead. We don’t understand each other, which is where food comes in. “Let’s go call Junior” (Carl’s Jr. in my mom talk), she says, a sad hunger in her eyes. We make the five minute drive through suburban streets named after states, a microcosm of America in more than one way. She struggles through the intercom, eagerly leaning out the window with a Chinese accent. I see her long lamented muffin-tops around her waist, the near-perfect blue sky of what should be happy, and want to cry. Death is not the and, I say, &. &. Who knew the ampersand could promise so much. On the drive home, me holding the warm bag of Carl’s son, she reaches in for a french fry or two, fingers finding fingers.
Jimmy Chen, Link

Friday, July 1, 2011

Contact, 29/100

At age twelve, I was completely obsessed with the 1997 film adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel Contact. It may have been what inspired my fanciful notions of growing up to be an astronaut. Then again, most films with interesting female leads at that time sent me into dreams of impossible vocations. After Twister I was absolutely going to be a storm chaser. Jurassic Park? Paleontologist. Tomb Raider? Well, a tomb raider I guess. But what do you major in in college to become a tornado chasing, tomb raiding, tyrannosaurus-rex tamer? It took me a long time to realize that what I loved was READING (and watching) about those things.

Then came the agony over deciding between a BA in English or Film. But that's another story.

THIS story is about a woman who is the first on Earth to contact intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. I'm willing to guess most people have seen the movie, so I won't spoil anything. I will say that the book is infinitely better than the film (no Forrest Gump-esque score or Matthew McConaughey, for one).

Carl Sagan was blessed with ridiculous talent. He had the super-intelligence to be a renowned astronomer, and the rare ability to translate that knowledge into accessible writing. Creative and non. And beyond that he was a promoter of peace and humanism. What I'm trying to say here is we should start The United Church of Carl Sagan.

Like all good science fiction, the plot may be out-of-this-world, but it's pointing directly back at the world. The story is about communicating with alien life, however it's more concerned with how humans communicate amongst themselves. The ultimate message is that we're not ready to talk to the gods until we're able to converse with each other on our own planet successfully. Peacefully.

Not many quotables, but I did like this observation:

Any faith that admires truth, that strives to know God, must be brave enough to accommodate the universe. I mean the real universe. All those light-years. All those worlds. I think of the scope of your universe, the opportunities it affords that Creator, and it takes my breath away. It's much better than bottling Him up in one small world. I never liked the idea of Earth as God's green footstool. It was too reassuring, like a children's a tranquilizer. But your universe has room enough, and time enough, for the kind of God I believe in.