Aug 31, 2009

Start spreading the news.

I'm leaving Portland on Thursday. It's time I get back to New York, and start my post-grad life (I know it started on May 22nd or whenever, but now it feels like it's starting for real). I still don't have a job, but I do have an apartment complete with a dishwasher (!) and two roommates who aren't strangers. The employment thing will happen.

Regardless, I'm moving, so I won't be writing much for the rest of the week. I know I don't keep the most diligent blogging schedule, but that's due for a change once I'm settled. Before I go, here are some quick thoughts on the latest entertainment I've absorbed:
  • I raced through Brett Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero last night/this afternoon. It's a fucked up examination of the morally depraved, materially excessive culture of early 80's Los Angeles. All the characters do coke, are bisexual, and never sleep; you feel like you're holding your breath through the whole thing. These kids don't have anything to lose, so they constantly push the limits of acceptable behavior. It didn't disturb me so much as intrigue me. Like Clay, the narrator, I had a queasy desire to "see the worst" the characters were capable of. I think that's the point.

  • Last night's Mad Men ("My Old Kentucky Home") was the best of the season, so far. Much tighter pacing/writing all around, with ample time given to the majority of the supporting cast. Did anyone else have the sinking feeling Grandpa Gene was going to do something really horrific to either Sally or Carla? Their scenes were tense. Episode highlights included everything Peggy or Joan did/said, Pete and Trudy dancing, and Don's conversation with the random man behind the bar.

See you in September.

Aug 27, 2009

Yay or nay?

I give you "We Are Golden" the new MIKA single. I can't decide how I feel about it. The random teenagers yelling through the chorus are kind of distracting/annoying, but it still has that fun sense of cheesy grandeur for which MIKA is famous.

Also, I'm about a third of the way through Unaccustomed Earth and it's fantastic (shocking, I know, what with The New York Times and Amazon and Jesus putting it on their best book lists). Lahiri writes her dialouge in block paragraph form, so the pages are dense, but her writing is so delicate and precise you hardly notice. Reading her stories is like sitting quietly on a cloud.

Aug 25, 2009

"Are you very afraid?"

I can't follow True Blood every week (no HBO at the family homestead), so I'm glad I caught "I Will Rise Up," the ninth episode of the current season, this afternoon. That final scene between Eric, Sookie, and Godric was easily the most beautiful five minutes of television I've seen in years (yes, that includes Mad Men*). With her pretty tears and graceful line readings, Anna Paquin broke my heart into a million little pieces.

*Last Sunday's Mad Men was still great, thanks to Peggy singing "Bye, Bye Birdie" into her mirror, the general awesomeness of Roger's ex-wife, Mona, and Don taking another step towards becoming the family man his wife and children desperately need.

Aug 21, 2009

Song for you.

Entertainment weekly.

I said that I would hit the ground running when I got home from my mini-vacation; I ended up wafting gently back to earth. I'm finally back, so let's get to it:

Dollhouse "Epitaph One": Like I said, easily the best episode of this show to date. It raises the stakes monumentally. The series is no longer sitting in Philosophy 101 debating the existence of the soul, it's staving off a zombie apocalypse! The episode also featured a lot less Echo/Caroline (she has got to be one of the least compelling lead characters, ever) and a lot more Adelle, Victor and Claire/Whiskey (this show has a killer supporting cast). I'm definitely on board for next season, both to see the flashbacks in context and spend more time with our merry band of post-apocalyptic rebels. The best thing Joss Whedon has made since Serenity.

The Lovely Bones: Friends told me they loved this book, but hated the ending. I'm neutral about the whole endeavor. Maybe I'm not the target audience? Susie's story just didn't pack the emotional punch that I thought it would. My favorite parts were the near-misses with Mr. Harvey; the chapter where Len ignores the phone to consummate his affair with Abigail was maddeningly tense. I wanted more of that thriller feel. The ending: I thought the point of heaven was that Susie had to let go of Earth and accept she couldn't go back? Her getting to possess Ruth/have sex with Ray felt like a cheat. Oh, and I liked the meaning of the title.

Mad Men "Out of Town": So, so, so great to have this show back. It's the best thing on television, period. The opening sequence threw me off, but once we got back to the Sterling Cooper offices it was smooth sailing. Loved Pete v. Ken, Round 1 (who knew Ken could be so awesome?). At first, I couldn't believe Don was willing to sleep with the flight attendant, but his boredom/increased unease with his behavior redeemed the redundancy of the encounter. I definitely wanted more Betty/Joan/Peggy, but we've got the whole season ahead of us. And poor Sal. I'm glad he got some, but he's got a long way to go.

Netherland: I read this two books ago, so pardon my failed attempts to generate a detailed response. It's good, challenging at times, very literary. It's the kind of book I could see being taught. The cricket stuff bored me, a little. I felt cool recognizing NYC cross-streets. It's the first book I've read about 9/11 and the Iraq War (it's not really about those events, but it does touch upon them) that didn't piss me off (I just think writing about 9/11 is so cheap/easy; what is the new take on that day? It was horrible for everyone. Writing about 9/11 is the Sally Field performance of literature). Read this book, but not at the beach.

Aug 17, 2009

To do.

I made some layout/formatting changes with which I'm continually tinkering, so bear with me. As for my personal status, I'm still in Maine/unemployed, but maybe/hopefully that will change by the end of the week. Who knows? I'm in limbo; it kind of feels like being an Active on Dollhouse (except I would not like "a treatment," thanks)*.

Anyway, the point of this post is to say that I'm going out of town for a night, but here's what I'll be writing about when I get back:
  • Thoughts on Netherland (short version: good, literary, challenging) and maybe The Lovely Bones, if I finish it (so far: like it, don't love it, can't figure out why).

  • Thoughts on the Mad Men premiere (LOVED IT, for various reasons) and the "lost" episode of Dollhouse (liked it ten times better than any other episode I've seen).

  • Something about music? I am really digging The Airborne Toxic Event, Say Hi, and Regina Spektor right now (that might be all I have to say about music).

See you in a few days. I promise to hit the ground running upon my return.

*How perfect is Amy Acker on that show? The Echo/Ballard stuff bores me to tears but anytime Claire/Whiskey comes onscreen I am totally hooked.

Aug 12, 2009

Nerd alert.

I spent some time in Portland's local comic shop today a) because I am that nerdy and b) because I was looking for the first volume of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles (they had every volume except the first, which happened to be the only volume Borders did have, but I digress). I don't buy comics in the monthly issue format (the ads are ugly/break up the story, trade paperbacks look nicer on a bookshelf), but I did flip through a few this afternoon.

Fables #87: Fables was my big graphic novel obsession of last summer (replaced throughout the year by Y: The Last Man). It's a great series, very entertaining, with absolutely gorgeous artwork from Mark Buckingham. Frankly, I stopped buying it because the trade paperbacks were getting too expensive, and issue #50 (Bigby and Snow's wedding) felt like a good stopping place. This issue is part one of the Witches arc, and addresses Baba Yaga's recent escape from imprisonment. It's the usual Fables loveliness (and it features the debut of Ozma), but I'm not sure I'm ready to buy the four volumes needed to catch up. We'll see.

Uncanny X-Men #514: The X-Men franchise has been floundering since Grant Morrison left. The post Messiah Complex era has felt more cohesive, but I'm a long ways away from buying a new X-Men comic. That said, this issue wasn't that bad. The Utopia storyline is getting some good press, and the story has a fun sense of momentum. The book still needs a regular cast of less than 15 characters, and I'm not sure it's a great idea to rip the team out of San Francisco just yet, but I'll be keeping a closer eye on this one.

Aug 11, 2009

I can't wait . . .

. . . for this Sunday.

The Magicians

Lev Grossman's The Magicians officially came out today; I read an advance copy (say it with me) at Columbia. While at the course, I also met Grossman, his editor, Molly Stern, and members of the book's marketing and publicity teams. Needless to say, they all love this book.

My classmates had a more mixed reaction to a story I'd characterize as Harry Potter goes to Narnia, except with sex, drinking and drugs (so maybe it's the cast of The Secret History goes to Narnia after graduating from Hogwarts?). Grossman positions his text as a darker, more realistic exploration of conventional young adult fantasy. It's true that Harry, Ron, and Hermione only ever engaged in the chastest of kissing, and that Aslan sent the Pevensie children to war (twice).

In The Magicians, Grossman follows these events to their logical conclusions. Even if Rowling didn't acknowledge it, students at Hogwarts had to be having sex. And how did Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy not end up totally fucked in the head*? I'd still rather re-read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but I appreciate Grossman's approach (the Antarctica and Manhattan chapters are particularly inventive).

*Personally, I'm waiting for the day Gregory Maguire gives Susan Pevensie the Wicked treatment (seriously, how fucking sick would that book be, especially if she ended up as the White Witch?).

Aug 10, 2009


My friend, Melissa Wolfish, recently started a blog of her own: Squirrel Fancy. I met Melissa at Columbia - she is crazy talented, funny, and smart, so make sure to check her out. As an extra incentive, you'll also find a rather ridiculous picture of yours truly, delivering a truly ridiculous toast at our final banquet (let's just say that glass of wine in my hand was not the first).

Aug 7, 2009

We have a winner.

I don't actually watch So You Think You Can Dance, I just YouTube the performances the next day. This season hasn't wowed me as often as last year (the hip-hop, in particular, has been lackluster), but I'm still excited for the winner, Jeanine Mason.

Jeanine's been a regular component in almost all my favorite routines, and she comes across as a really down-to-earth girl. In honor of her win, here's one of her stand-out performances:

Entertainment weekly.

I'm home in Maine until my New York lease starts later this month. It's very quiet here, so I've got lots of free time to do all my favorite things (lay in bed and read, lay in bed and watch movies, etc.). Here's what I read/watched this week:

The Tenderness of Wolves: Really, really good. I don't normally go for historical fiction, but I got this for free at Columbia, and figured I might as well give it a try. I'm glad I did. Stef Penney strikes the perfect balance between intricately complex plotting and strong character work. The entire cast exists in three dimensions: Mrs. Ross, Parker, Moody, Francis, Line, the list goes on. Mrs. Ross, in particular, is a triumph. The plot (which begins as a murder mystery) grabs your attention, but the characters are the real reason for sticking around. Maybe my favorite book of this summer; Olive Kitteridge has some stiff competition, at the very least.

Watchmen: I never saw this in theaters, and I'm kind of glad I didn't. I watched it in two installments (I paused when Rorschach went to prison), and the break kept it from feeling too long. I really liked it - a smart take on the superhero genre that didn't call too much attention to itself or suffocate the viewer with its sense of self-importance (I'm talking about you, The Dark Knight). Malin Akerman was as horribly miscast as everyone said; I wanted her to be angrier, goddammit! Having seen the film, I think I'll commit to finishing the graphic novel.

(Last) weekend update.

I spent last weekend on Nantucket with my former roommate Kevin, and former teammate Terry (above). Besides the usual mix of sun, sand, and booze, the visit included yet another instance of my friends completing grueling athletic challenges for charity.

Since I met Kevin, he's talked about doing the Rock Run, a day-long, team run around Nantucket. This year, Kevin, his sisters, two family friends, and Terry, finally did it. Combined, they ran 50 miles, and donated $200 to Autism Speaks. I couldn't be prouder of them. My contribution to the day was some spirited clapping and a sunburn; I'm sure it made all the difference.

We also saw Kevin Spacey at a local bar that night. Sorry, Sherri Saum, you are no longer the most famous person I have shared public space with.

And finally, I deleted the "Let It Rock" post, since the video was no longer available. Sad times.