I feel they're going to take away my blog if I don't put up some kind of end-of-the-year list, so as arbitrary as they may be, these are a few of my favorite things.
Best LA Radio Show Worth Getting Up at 9AM on a Sunday: Chris Morris, Watusi Rodeo (103.1)
Best New Neighbor: The Echo Park Time Travel Mart
Best Blog for Head-Nodding Agreement: Jezebel
Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Cliff's Edge
Best Greatest Hits Compilation I Wasn't Embarrassed to Buy: Led Zeppelin, Mothership
Best Magazine That I Subscribed to This Year in a Regrettable Magazine Subscription Binge: BUST
Best Book of the Year (If Not the Century): Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Best Daily E-mail: Very Short List
Best Live Show of the Year (That I Personally Saw): Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings @ El Rey (Honorable Mention: Beastie Boys @ The Greek Theater; Neko Case @ Walt Disney Concert Hall; Langhorne Slim @ Spaceland; Lucinda Williams @ El Rey)
Best Song to Sing Loudly into a Hairbrush: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, "Let Them Knock"
Best Chill Restaurant Downtown: Royal Claytons
Best Coffee: My New Bialetti Mukka Express; Coffee Table (Silverlake) (tie)
Best Named Building on My Commute: Women's Twentieth Century Club (Eagle Rock)
Best Onion Headline: Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8
Best Duets: Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (tie)
Best Parlour Game: Fortunes Chinoises
Best Annual LA Event of the Year: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books; Sunset Junction; Culver City Art Walk (tie)
Best Protest Song: Pink, "Dear Mr. President"
Best Source for Repeatable One-liners: 30 Rock
Best Scene in the Best Film of the Year: Dog chases Josh Brolin through the water in No Country for Old Men
Monday, December 31, 2007
I feel they're going to take away my blog if I don't put up some kind of end-of-the-year list, so as arbitrary as they may be, these are a few of my favorite things.
37. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
I think I recall this novella got some critical grief for collecting and recycling characters, but I found it sort of a fun imaginative exercise of what it would be like to live in Paul Auster's brain.
38. Him Her Him Again The End of Him by Patricia Marx
Note to self: Do not use those obsessive, unrequited affairs from your past as material for a book.
39. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
Despite Lessing's disappointing remarks about the evils of "blugging," I still totally enjoyed her version of the demon seed. If you think you may want to have children, don't read this book.
40. The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind
This is a compact meditation on the perils of trying to establish rigid control over the events in your life. Virginia Woolf meets Knut Hamsun meets Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I wish Süskind would write more.
Well, I didn't make it to 52, but I did get 8 books beyond last year's total while completely switching careers, so there. Onward to 2008...
Posted by escapegrace at 10:02 AM
Sunday, December 30, 2007
- Make sure you're not drinking milk when you check out this evil eye baby.
- The Guardian has a look at what we can expect in fiction for 2008.
- Some great unexpected titles are recommended here.
- This site allows you to see the last 50 images posted to LiveJournal.
- If you want to kill a large chunk of time, visit the series "A Year in Reading" over at The Millions.
- Celebrity Hotel Rooms shows you the life you'll never live, but really, don't you have something better to do with that $10K than rent a space in which you'll spend most of the time unconscious?
Posted by escapegrace at 11:02 AM
Friday, December 28, 2007
Skylight Books' Cory Garfin finds a convenient way to excuse his lack of productivity:
Cory Garfin, an L.A.-based fiction writer with no ties to Hollywood, has declared that his lack of productivity of late is actually because he considers himself “on strike” as a show of solidarity with the writers in town who actually get paid to write.
In fact, Garfin maintains that his support of the strike reaches back to well before the WGA officially called for a work stoppage in November of 2007. He claims to not have written much, “and frequently nothing good,” quite often over the last several years. He now says of those lulls: "I've been retroactively protesting."
“It’s wonderful to know,” he goes on to say, “that all of those times in the past when I thought I was suffering from writer’s block or laziness, I was actually a social transformer well ahead of the curve.”
Posted by escapegrace at 9:42 AM
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Via Callie, the LA Weekly book critics list their favorite undernourished books of the year. I must need some more coffee because I thought the description of The Descendants was actually a description of the Raymond Chandler biography with ol' Ray coping with his wayward teenage daughters after his wife falls into a coma. The subtitle is "Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved" - I didn't know about "his much older wife, Cissy" and "their obsessive, peripatetic marriage." She could have been in a coma, for all I knew. Anyway, it's nice to see Listen Again on the list, the latest publication from the Experience Music Project.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:14 AM
Sunday, December 23, 2007
28. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
I was not impressed by this book. The overnight adventures of one sister were mildly interesting, but the voyeurism on the sleeping sister seemed fetishistic at best, terribly dull at worst.
29. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Gilbert's idea that despite our most elaborate of plans, we have absolutely no way of predicting what will make our future selves happy is, in my opinion, an essential truth of human nature. He makes many similarly incisive observations, but these popular science books don't quite hold my attention like novels do.
30. This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes
After The Mistress's Daughter, I was eager to read another book by Homes, and her last novel did not disappoint. What was most surprising and delightful to me was the way she took the traditional tropes of the Hollywood novel and put a modern and distinctive spin on them.
31. Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
This engaging character study made me nostalgic for the time I've spent in England - especially my trip to Cambridge a few years ago - but it was possibly the least suspenseful serial killer narrative I've come across.
32. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
God Bless Tom Perrotta. I picked up this book wanting to spend a couple of days on the couch absorbed in a story and it did not disappoint. I'm still unsure how I feel about its conclusion, but that doesn't diminish my gratitude for the escape.
Considering these four books took up most of my semester, I will count them toward the total.
33. NextText: Making Connections Across and Beyond the Disciplines, edited by Anne Kress and Suellyn Winkle
Upon my return to teaching composition, I went looking for a textbook that would excite me with little expectation I would succeed, but lo and behold, I found this reader. It was perfect for my science and technology focused students and perfect for my desire to explore unconventional genres and contemporary texts. I'm trying it out next semester with more of a business and education crowd, so we'll see if it holds its charm.
34. Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past, edited by Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt
For one class I taught this semester at someplace other than my main gig, I was given a choice of three anthologies. I chose this one.
Both of the following handbooks are exceptionally helpful, though if I had to choose only one, I'd probably lean toward the Little, Brown - a decision based almost entirely on the introduction/conclusion section.
35. The Little, Brown Handbook (10th Edition) by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron
36. A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker
I may not get to 52, but the year is still alive, I'm on vacation, and some books are mercifully short.
Posted by escapegrace at 3:36 PM
- John Dugdale collects the best and worst literary quotes of the year.
- The New Yorker gave me a new Jonathan Lethem story for Christmas.
- The Top 15 Unintentionally Funny Comic Book Panels
- The Economist has a history of the census, or as it's less well-known, the sin of David.
- Lars and the Real Girl is, well... disturbingly real.
- The Los Angeles homicide rate for 2007 may be at its lowest since 1970.
- A boy raised by wolves is on the loose in Russia.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:15 AM
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Aquarium Drunkard has a lovely little collection of Christmas songs goin' on, including video of Tom Waits doing "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" and a cover of the song by Neko Case. Sigh. It's enough to make a grinch a tiny bit less grinchy.
If you just can't resist the seasonal spirit, Anne Litt's KCRW show "The A Track" is also f*ing festive today.
Posted by escapegrace at 4:47 PM
Matt Weiland on the new Will Self book Psychogeography: Disentangling the Modern Conundrum of Psyche and Place...
What is “psychogeography”? The jacket flap defines it as a “meditation on the vexed relationship between psyche and place,” and any number of well-spectacled young Ph.D.’s in sociology or urban studies will talk to you of Situationists and leave you with the bar tab. At its writerly best, though, psychogeography seems simpler to me: it is clear and vivid nonfiction writing with a sense of the past and an eye for the present that takes us close to the street. I mean “street” both literally, as in the color of the paving stones and the font of the signage and the shape of the sidewalk, and figuratively, as in the multitudes that pass by, the movers and shakers, the loiterers and bystanders, the beggars and mimes.
The book is illustrated by Ralph Steadman and looks pretty nifty.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:33 AM
Friday, December 21, 2007
Via Bookslut, at the Guardian, delectable wintry cocktails from Dickens:
"'A merry Christmas, Bob!' said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. 'A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!'" (A Christmas Carol)
5 oranges * 1 grapefruit * 1/4 lb sugar * 2 bottles red wine * 1 bottle ruby port * 30 cloves
Bake the oranges and grapefruit in the oven until they are pale brown and then put them into a warmed earthenware bowl with five cloves pricked into each. Add the sugar and pour in the wine. Then, either (i) cover and leave in a warm place for a day, or (ii) warm the mixture gently (do not boil) for about three hours. Squeeze the oranges and grapefruit into the wine and pour it through a sieve. Add the port and heat (again, don't boil). Serve in warmed cups/glasses and drink hot.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:57 AM
I heard about this blue man last night, but I didn't see the photos until this morning (he kinda looks like a Santa/Smurf hybrid).
My favorite coverage comes from the Fresno ABC affiliate who filed their report in the form of an Onion audition: Blue Man Seeks Acceptance.
The Central Valley is a land of racial and ethnic diversity. People of all colors live here - white, brown, black, and now even blue.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:49 AM
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Even though Santa didn't seem to jump to it last year when I posted my Christmas list, I figured I'd give him another shot. (Just kidding, Mr. Kringle. I know you're busy.)
Cherry Blossom Platinum Designer Mouse @ mousenvy $45
Clear Cut Press Subscription $65
Gold External Hard Drive @ A+R $260
Rockwell Embroidered Coat @ Anthropologie $258
Summer Trip to Tallinn, Estonia @ Expedia $2725
Atomic Bonsai Kit @ Chocosho $20
I'm Not There Soundtrack @ Amazon $13
Rain Leaf Earrings @ Aesa
iPhone @ Apple Store $399
John Fleuvog Lover Boot in Spruce $275
Posted by escapegrace at 11:19 AM
I am sorry I have neglected you so. If I could find a quicker way to grade student essays, perhaps my mornings would be returned to you. Good news, though! I'm on vacation for 3 weeks, so I have a feeling you will soon tire of my constant attention.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:15 AM
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Dave Itzkoff suggests science fiction selections for the presidential candidates.
Have the worlds of science fiction and presidential politics ever been more closely aligned than they were in 2007? This was the year when Rudolph Giuliani told a young questioner on the campaign trail that “we’ll be prepared” if the United States is attacked by aliens from another planet; when Dennis Kucinich blithely confessed during a Democratic debate that he’d seen a U.F.O.; and when Mitt Romney revealed in an interview that L. Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth” was one of his favorite novels...
Former mayor of New York
Should tell reporters he’s read “Childhood’s End,” by Arthur C. Clarke: An advanced intelligence arrives from above, creating a utopia by integrating all of humanity into a single mind that thinks and acts as one.
Might also consider reading “The War of the Worlds,” by H. G. Wells: During a cataclysmically destructive event, an observant bystander happens to be in the right place at the right time and thereafter never stops talking about it.
GEORGE W. BUSH
President of the United States
Should tell reporters he’s read “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card: A gifted child from a privileged family defeats a race of inhuman warriors without ever having to leave the comfort of his war-simulator machine.
Might also consider reading “A Scanner Darkly,” by Philip K. Dick: A troubled law enforcer invites a series of increasingly desperate, damaged characters into his home and lives to regret the decision.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:50 AM
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
- I'd like to see a showdown between Entertainment Weekly's 50 Smartest People in Hollywood vs. the Daily News's Top 50 Dumbest People in Hollywood. Maybe something involving chess and buckets of mustard.
- LAist editor Tony Pierce has been lured away by the LA Times siren song.
- John Updike writes on bizarre dinosaurs for National Geographic.
- Beware the time-sucking Chain Factor.
- While you're in the holiday spirit, buy something for the kids of 826LA (especially the new Echo Park location).
- Linda Thompson covers Tom Waits's "Day After Tomorrow" over at the fun NPR Song of the Day site.
- Someone has collected photos of cats caught mid-pounce in what seems like an everyman homage to Philippe Halsman.
- WFMU has Brian Wilson's 1989 rap debut, "Smart Girls."
- Robot cockroaches fool fellow cockroach brethren.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:24 AM
Friday, November 30, 2007
The New York Times has chosen their 10 Best Books of 2007. About a year ago, I started receiving e-mail messages about Michael Thomas's Man Gone Down and I could never tell whether I was being mass marketed or targeted as a former teacher within the same university system from which Professor Thomas emerged. Either way, I feel a sense of pride that his book appears at the top of the (albeit alphabetical) list. Good on ya.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:03 AM
Underfunded Schools Forced to Cut Past Tense from Language Programs
WASHINGTON—Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense—a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time—from their standard English and language arts programs.
A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.
"This was by no means an easy decision, but teaching our students how to conjugate verbs in a way that would allow them to describe events that have already occurred is a luxury that we can no longer afford," Phoenix-area high-school principal Sam Pennock said. "With our current budget, the past tense must unfortunately become a thing of the past."
Posted by escapegrace at 9:59 AM
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
- The mayor of an Arkansas town has revealed that he has long been on the run from brainwashing satanists. His secret came out when his former family tracked him down through the website he ran about his own disappearance.
- Ten Video Games That Should Be Movies (and the Directors Who Should Make Them)
- From 1976, Dick Cavett interviews Mae West.
- Who knew Andy Kaufman was on The Dating Game?
- Zombie-American: "The thing that most people know, which is true, is that we are walking dead. What people don't realize is we do a lot of things besides just walk."
- Test your vocabulary; feed the hungry.
- PowerPoint can even suck the life out of the Gettysburg Address.
- The NY Times gives us their 100 Notable Books of the Year.
- Via A Fool in the Forest, a Charles Bukowski-John Bonham mash-up.
- The mug shot camera couldn't interfere with David Bowie's transcendent hotness.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:52 AM
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Puff Pastry Turnovers with Shrimp, Scallops, and Spinach
Turkey Breast Roulade with Crimini, Porcini, and Pancetta
Apple, Leek, and Butternut Squash Gratin
Sausage, Pecan, and Cranberry Stuffing
Spinach with Shallots, Almonds, & Dried Cranberries
Gingerbread with Pears and Whipped Lemon Topping
Chocolate Pecan Pie (secret recipe)
Posted by escapegrace at 8:39 AM
Monday, November 19, 2007
Margaret Atwood checks back in with Huxley to see how Brave New World holds up.
In a foreword to a new edition of Brave New World published in 1946, after the horrors of the second world war and Hitler's "final solution", Huxley criticises himself for having provided only two choices in his 1932 utopia/dystopia - an "insane life in Utopia" or "the life of a primitive in an Indian village, more human in some respects, but in others hardly less queer and abnormal". (He does, in fact, provide a third sort of life - that of the intellectual community of misfits in Iceland - but poor John the Savage isn't allowed to go there, and he wouldn't have liked it anyway, as there are no public flagellations available.) The Huxley of 1946 comes up with another sort of utopia, one in which "sanity" is possible. By this, he means a kind of "high utilitarianism" dedicated to a "conscious and rational" pursuit of man's "final end", which is a kind of union with the immanent "Tao or Logos, the transcendent Godhead or Brahmin". No wonder Huxley subsequently got heavily into the mescaline and wrote The Doors of Perception, thus inspiring a generation of 1960s dopeheads and pop musicians to seek God in altered brain chemistry. His interest in soma, it appears, didn't spring out of nowhere.
Meanwhile, those of us still pottering along on the earthly plane - and thus still able to read books - are left with Brave New World. How does it stand up, 75 years later? And how close have we come, in real life, to the society of vapid consumers, idle pleasure-seekers, inner-space trippers and programmed conformists that it presents?
Posted by escapegrace at 7:14 AM
Sunday, November 18, 2007
- "What does this have to do with The Odyssey?"
- Umberto Eco goes ugly.
- A former bottom-tier school in England has placed in the top 25% by organizing their entire curriculum around one theme, voted on by the students.
- Ed Champion reviews the new Steve Erickson.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:40 AM