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May. 19th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading/Listening/Floating in the Void

We have lost all sense of time and space, it has become clear. We are floating free of calendar squares, timelines, appointment reminders. We have transcended chronological expectations. Strange, since we are still a creature of deadlines in our other life, as well as shift work. We have an alarm on our cell phone that goes off once a day -- two to three times, if you incorporate the snooze function into your calculations. But calculations are just another form of ordering, and ordinal regimen is what we have detached from somehow. Time, we are told, is an illusion, time on the Internet doubly so. Tilt your head and we may all gain a glimpse of infinity.

Or I could just be turning into a terminal flake.

Probably there are other mitigating factors, like fatigue -- I am so fucking tired, it's near the end of the school year, I now tutor on Wednesdays instead of Fridays, etc. Anyway, I am here now, with you, and I have been reading the best-selling, award-winning H is for Hawk.

My God, this is such a good book. I knew about the grief over her father's unexpected death and the training of the hawk; I did not know about the delicate discussion of T.H. White and his sexuality (and the remarks about closeted homosexual British nature writers in general), nor the class implications of falconry, nor her prickly yet endearing self-consciousness about the whole endeavor, which is part and parcel of her talent for the careful observation of particularities. And the writing is beautiful.

This week's earworm: Alicia Keys torments me.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/05/17/earworm-weekly-alicia-keys-if-i-aint-got-you

May. 9th, 2016

reading tiger

It's Monday. What?

I've been on heavy deadlines, and then recovering from deadlines, and so I've been absent hereabouts for a bit. Now I'm back with a spot of time (OK, procrastinating on another deadline), and even though it's Monday I thought I'd take a moment to catch up on the reading and things.

I sailed through "Bullies: A Friendship" by Alex Abramovich. Its title doesn't give much of a clue what it's about, but the cover does: it features a man displaying his East Bay Rats back tattoo to the camera. Abramovich discovers that his childhood bully, Trevor Latham, is now head of the EBR motorcycle club, on the other side of the country, and reaches out to him. Abramovich ends up relocating to Oakland for a spell to hang out with Latham and his buddies at the clubhouse on San Pablo and also explore a city in the grips of rapid change -- we get chapters dedicated to Chauncey Bailey's murder and Occupy Oakland, whose denouement coincides with the book's. Abramovich I think unfairly dismisses East Oakland as fairly uninteresting, but that's the biggest flaw. It's an interesting culture-clash narrative, definitely worth reading.

ETA: and here's a nice interview with Abramovich published in Vogue, of all places, that gives more insight into the book: http://www.vogue.com/13411297/alex-abramovich-bullies-interview/

I also just finished "Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen" by Mary Norris, a copy editor at the New Yorker. It's a mixture of memoir, language history, and grammar lessons; I didn't learn much new grammar but I did learn some interesting history, and the memoir bits were charming. I will say that she hits a good balance of prescriptive and descriptive, which you kind of have to when your day-job is enforcing the idiosyncratic standards of the New Yorker. If I did trigger and/or content warnings, I would say that the chapter on Norris' sibling's transition and the linguistic perils thereof was rough reading, but I appreciate her honesty even if she does give herself a cookie at the end. Overall, it's a good insight as to what working in a copy department is actually like.


Some music columns that you may have missed:

Meghan Trainor, "All About That Bass"
http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/05/03/earworm-weekly-all-about-that-bass-by-meghan-trainor

The Bangles, "Manic Monday"
http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/04/26/earworm-weekly-the-bangles-manic-monday

Apr. 22nd, 2016

reading tiger

a short placeholder of an idle thought while gathering my wits this week

Those of you who have heard my tales of attending the AVN Awards will remember me talking about the Planet of the Porn People, b/c porn stars are all like 5 feet high and change and I felt like I was a true giantess walking among them.

Prince, of course, was legendarily short, and legendarily sexy. I will let you draw your own conclusions here.

Apr. 14th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading and Listening has apparently taken an extended Thursday engagement.

Beck and geek chic: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/04/12/earworm-weekly-becks-new-pollution

Almost done with Black Deutschland. What a fantastic book. Along the way I also read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which is super-cute and stars G.'s new favorite comic book character, incidentally.

Apr. 7th, 2016

reading tiger

It's Thursday again already?

Earworm Weekly: "Army Dreamers."

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/04/06/earworm-weekly-kate-bushs-army-dreamers

Still reading and enjoying the heck out of "Black Deutschland." Harold Washington has just died. So many memories became unburied while reading through this section.

Mar. 23rd, 2016

reading tiger

reading and Listening

Earworm Weekly, Neneh Cherry version:

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/03/22/earworm-weekly-neneh-cherrys-buffalo-stance

Reading-wise, I am almost finished with The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, which despite the flaws I outlined last week was quite charming, if not particularly enlightening for someone like me. Not enlightening but nonetheless inspiring, as I try to cook down my overstuffed freezer and get a better handle on my weekly menu planning considering that I'm now working three nights a week, give or take, usually just after we get our weekly box o' produce.

OK, maybe a little enlightening. Let me put it this way: my pantry's got nothing on some of these folks who *don't* cook.

Mar. 16th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading and Listening, let's get this over with early so I can take a nap edition

This week's earworm: Smash Mouth. Dammit. With bonus minor election coverage reference.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/03/15/earworm-weekly-smash-mouths-walkin-on-the-sun

I finished The Small Backs of Children. I remain ambivalent. I am glad I read it, I am not sure I like it, I am very not sure if it succeeded, damn it's nice to see someone take on that particular thematic material, yes I understand why all the artists are all over the book now, I am still not sure I like it, but it's definitely worth a read.

The Eastern Europe stuff actually threw me out of the book briefly, but I got over it. Probably it suffers for having been read in close proximity to Jessa Crispin's book, which deals with real-life Eastern European cities rather than fictional ones (fictional ones that are actually possibly fictional, that is, you'll see what I mean when you read the book).

And I think the poor performance artist is treated very shoddily. I know it's part of the theme -- all the women in the book suffer dreadful things. Still.

Anyway. I finished it, I'm now reading The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, which does suffer from equating losing weight with getting healthier and the belief that if you cook and eat more unprocessed foods you'll naturally shed pounds. I am a living testament to the fact that this is a lie, so, uh. But I sure do enjoy the food I eat a lot more than I did before! And I'm probably healthier, too, although the blood test results I got back this week suggest that I really should exercise a bit more and no, slinging cases of books around a bookstore once or twice a week does not count. But I digress.

(Actually, funny, I learned to cook "whole foods," mostly veg at the time, because I was trying to drop my cholesterol levels. It didn't work, and I have maintained my slightly-high numbers my entire adult life. Which indicates that exercise may not make much of a difference either. They're too low for drugs, too. Liminality is a way of life, baby.)

Anyway, I picked up a couple books at the bookstore that I am looking forward to delving into alongside the above book -- Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, which I am hoping will be a bracing antidote to didactic books like Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and Black Deutschland, a novel about a gay black American in 1980s Berlin, hubba hubba. Also Bullies, in which Our Author confronts his childhood bully, now president of the East Bay Rats, in the midst of the rapidly-gentrifying Oakland of the last 10 years. How strange to think that I moved to "pre-gentrified" Oakland. But I know the rent they're charging in my old neighborhood now, and I think I need to make a couple thank-yous for having stable housing even through divorce.

Also a zillion children's books. Finished Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, which is a super-cute middle-grade epistolary novel starring a Latina girl from L.A. who has relocated to rural California with her down-on-their-luck family. The Mom is a freelance writer who's (barely) supporting her family by writing dumb service articles, so you know we all relate and that I giggled when I read Mom's refrigerator to-do list out loud. I'm looking forward to a bunch of graphic novels (Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Rollergirl, Lumberjanes 2, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel 4) and, out-loud-wise, The Cheshire Cheese Cat, which is apparently a parody of Dickens starring cats (and mice), and which narrowly won out over The Hobbit because the main cat character has a bent tail just like our cat Crook.

Whew. Also I've been on deadline. And migrainey. That's basically the first time in decades the two have coincided, lucky me. (Usually I have the post-stress migraine thing instead, but I ate erratically over the weekend and skipped lunch entirely on Monday and that was a very bad idea. My glucose is fine, by the way, thank you for your concern.)

I think I am going to take a nap now.

Mar. 9th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading and Listening

I finished The Haters, it was cute and satisfying and it avoided the obvious choices, I think I will stock it in the bookstore.

I started Lidia Yuknavitch's The Small Backs of Children on the recommendation of one of my co-workers, who adored it. It crackles with ambition, but I'm not sure if I really like it yet. We'll see. I think the biggest turnoff, to be honest, are the artist characters. So many! The poet, the writer, the filmmaker, the photographer, the playwright. For those who like salacious details like this, I am told that there are myriad autobiographical elements (the writer is married to a filmmaker; Yuknavitch is married to a filmmaker. The writer has a dead child; Yuknavitch has a dead child. Etc., etc). The second-biggest turnoff is that sometimes I feel like it's trying too hard in an overwritten way. But I'm hanging with it because I think it's doing some interesting stuff nonetheless.

Mar. 2nd, 2016

reading tiger

Reading! Listening! Wednesday! On Schedule!

This week's Earworm Weekly column is on Amy Winehouse's version of "Our Day Will Come."

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/03/01/earworm-weekly-amy-winehouses-our-day-will-come-cover

I'm currently reading an ARC of Haters by Jesse Andrew of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl fame. I would never, ever have picked up this novel on my own -- it's YA, it's got a straight boy as the viewpoint character, it's realistic fiction.

So far, though, it's funny as heck and I am enjoying it a lot.

My boss half-asked, half-assigned me to read this book because it's got a music theme. Our straight boy and his best friend and the girl they meet at jazz camp are the haters, the ones who cannot simply love something unreservedly, but pick it apart almost obsessively, definitely reflexively. In other words, what they really need is to develop a double consciousness, but in the meantime, they flee jazz camp and head out on the road as a power trio trying to score gigs on the fly. Hilarity and police pursuit ensue, and we'll see what else.

Like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the book has lots of lists and conversation transcripts and suchlike breaking up the text, in a good way. It's a fast read, too. And the publishers clearly expect it to be a big hit, because it came in extra-fancy packaging complete with a box shaped like a guitar. Which made me predisposed to be annoyed at the book, by the way, but I'm over it.

Feb. 26th, 2016

reading tiger

(no subject)

I watched the first, two-hour episode of Vinyl yesterday as part of my "professional development" reflex, i.e. it's a show about the music industry and I am once again a professional music writer so maybe I should check it out. As I told G. yesterday, when something isn't quite clicking with me, I tend to start to pick it apart (whereas he, like most reasonable people, tends to tune out entirely). So here are some of my initial impressions, in no particular order:

1. Of course there was a scene set in Plato's Retreat. It's as inevitable as the tides. Gratuitous T&A justified by historical "realism." Yawn.

2. Why did we need to see the Mercedes emblem on the hood of our main character's car twice? Because the producers thought we were too dumb to pick up on it (and its meaning -- look! He's come so far! He's so out of place!) the first time? Or something else more ambitious but only half-realized? Or just plain sloppy?

3. I ask in part b/c the first hour in particular was padded with extraneous stuff until it practically burst at the seams. Voice-over in the first hour that disappeared in the second. Extended fantasy musical bits -- ambitious but unnecessary. Flashbacks a go go. Etc.

4. It felt clumsy around race. At least it was clumsy in slightly different ways than usual when dealing with this era, and tbh it was always going to be a hard subject to tackle well considering this is the era when rock turned whiter than white (among other things), but I was still disappointed. It also completely buys into the authenticity=blues/inauthenticity=dance-pop paradigm that is a crock of heavily aged BS by now.

5. It completely ripped off the "the snap of the snare drum at the beginning of 'Rock Around the Clock' was the beginning of rock'n'roll" from the first chapter of Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

6. It has the usual problem of the peripheral characters being way more interesting than the ensconced-in-his-midlife-crisis rich white (Italian) main-character dude, Bobby Cannavale's excellent performance notwithstanding.

7. At least they undercut the complete cliche of the square entering the music club and having an epiphany by (spoiler I guess) having the club literally collapse around him at the climax. Bonus points for making it a historical reference so that nobody could complain about realism or lack thereof. This is a different strategy than the Plato's Republic moment, btw, which is also always justified with "but it really existed so it's OK!" Yeah, but all you ever do is use it as backdrop, not plot.

8. It takes way too long for the plot to work back to where we opened the show, at which point that opening gets way more interesting. (No-spoiler: it's not just some middle-aged guy nervous about going to a show with the kiddies thanks to too many years and too much blow.)

9. The whole thing was two hours long. It was a feature movie, except with less coherence. I expect better.

10. I did in fact exclaim "holy shit, David Bowie really did have sex with Mick Jagger!" when I saw the countenance of Jagger's son faking sleep upon the pillow the morning after: he's got his dad's lips and his other dad's eyes. Neither's charisma, though. Too bad.

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