?

Log in

Previous 10

Jul. 28th, 2016

reading tiger

reading and listening

I am back to reading Yoss' "Planet for Rent" and also, for the kids, "The True Meaning of Smekday." Thus it is that I am immersed in anxiety about aliens colonizing the Earth and the effects thereof, which of course is really just thinly-disguised anxiety about either a) what we did to the people we colonized right here historically without leaving the planet, and/or b) what said people we colonized might do to us if the tables were turned. Compare and contrast! I guess the main difference is that Yoss is, so far, filled with sexual obsessions, while "Smekday," being a kids' book, not so much. But actually the sexual fixations get a little old so I'm enjoying "Smekday" a little bit more. It might just be that reading the Boov dialog out loud is awesome, while Yoss' broken English is actually broken Spanish, translated, and may as a result have lost some of its subtle charms.

I wrote about the song "Bad Day" for my column this week.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/26/earworm-weekly-daniel-powters-bad-day

Jul. 22nd, 2016

reading tiger

still reading, still listening

I started "Between the World and Me" this week, coincidentally aligning with the Republican National Convention spectacle. It was kind of disturbing, actually, to read Coates' discussion of The [American] Dream and its costs while all that was going on. Exhibit A on display.

I had some drama around my column this week. But it got posted. Tagged and Tweeted and everything too.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/19/earworm-weekly-ghostbusters-by-ray-parker-jr

Jul. 14th, 2016

reading tiger

It Happens When It Happens: Reading and Writing

I just started "Planet for Rent" by Yoss, a Cuban science fiction writer who is also in a heavy metal band. (Awesome author photo. Gold star.) This his is older novel; his newer one, just released, is "Super Extra Grande" but I wanted to read this one first. So far, it's interesting in concept and a little clunky in execution, which is about what I expected. I mean, it's no clunkier than a lot of other contemporary SF.

The last two chapters of "Detroit City is the Place to Be" (before the double afterwords) are about "ruin porn" and the high art world's engagement with the Detroit landscape (sometimes versus its people, who are still there, as many people seem to conveniently forget). There is a lot to grapple with, and Binelli does it more justice than I have seen elsewhere. Man, it's some bleak shit in the end, though.

Earworm is here: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/12/earworm-weekly-she-drives-me-crazy-by-fine-young-cannibals

Jul. 5th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading/Listening -- On Vacation But On Schedule!

(well, if you take into account the three-hour time shift, anyway.)

Reading and listening are the same this week: I just finished Mark Binelli's second novel, "Screamin' Jay Hawkins' Greatest Hits." As I note in my music column (see below), the title is a joke, since technically Hawkins had zero hits, and only one song he's really known for. But "I Put a Spell On You" is a pretty big signature tune, man.

Binelli, you may notice, is also the author of "Detroit City Is The Place To Be," the book I have been reading up to this point. I was impressed enough by his nonfiction to give his fiction a spin. And I liked this book enough that I am going to check out his first novel, "Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die." Binelli is "experimental" to mainstream reading audiences and only mildly odd to indie readers; sure, "Greatest Hits" is not entirely linear and features a ghost, a theatrical monologue and a re-imagining of "Jailhouse Rock" starring Hawkins instead of Elvis (not all in one scene, though), taking care to note that Hawkins actually went to jail. But the writing itself is pretty straightforward, which I appreciate. It's a surprisingly subtle and thoughtful novel. Don't put too much stock into the cover blurbs about how it's talking about race in surprising new ways, though. All it really means is that Binelli is a white guy who doesn't collapse the complexities of a black man who loved opera, fathered dozens of illegitimate children, performed wearing a bone in his nose, and titled one of his albums "Black Music For White People." Which does make it a cut above the rest, I suppose.

The ending chapter is perfect.

The earworm is here:

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/05/earworm-weekly-the-many-versions-of-screamin-jay-hawkins-i-put-a-spell-on-you

Jun. 29th, 2016

reading tiger

We're back on track! (Reading/Listening)

But don't expect it to last, b/c next week I will be in Hawaii (!).

Still reading Detroit City, which is still a fine book. I should be finished with it soon. As far as chapter books with the kids go, I'm currently reading them a charming little YA mystery called Enchantment Lake.: A Northwoods Mystery. (https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/enchantment-lake) It's set in a small lakeside community in northern Minnesota, one that can only be reached by boat and only intermittently possesses electricity and is full of aging, eccentric residents. But the demographics are changing, someone's building a road and maybe a golf course, and suddenly a lot of "accidents" are claiming the lives of the older generation. Francie, an aspiring actress who briefly played a teenage detective on TV, comes back to help her elderly aunts discover what's really going on.

Published by University of Minnesota Press, this was written by someone who, you can tell, is intimately familiar with the northern Midwestern landscape. I've never been up to northern Minnesota, but my family used to have a house on a lake in southern Michigan (near Cassopolis). Not a vacation house; my own elderly relations lived there year-round -- the whole Filley family, whom the Selkes intermarried with, had 3-4 houses all next to each other, if I recall correctly, and the local access road is still named after them -- and we'd go to visit on weekends. So all the little details keep making me shiver with delight. (The peat bog! The midnight fishing for walleye, using leeches as bait! Jigsaw puzzles you've done so many times before that you try it without the reference photo to make it more challenging! Birch trees!) I am not entirely sure the kids are as entertained as I am, but they seem to enjoy Francie and her dotty aunts (are they sisters? a couple? does it matter?), and the writing is sprightly enough to keep their attention. It's too bad this book didn't get more attention -- I plucked it from the returns cart at work -- because it's really quite well-crafted and more satisfying than the usual YA mystery fluff. At least so far.

Meanwhile, I wrote about Prince again: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/06/28/earworm-weekly-lets-pretend-were-married-by-prince

Jun. 23rd, 2016

reading tiger

reading and listening

Detroit City: I had forgotten how colorful Coleman Young was. "Swearing is an art form. You can express yourself much more exactly, much more succinctly, with properly used curse words."



Earworms:

Queen: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/06/14/earworm-weekly-we-will-rock-you-by-queen

Katy Perry: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/06/21/earworm-weekly-firework-by-katy-perry

Jun. 17th, 2016

reading tiger

we were doing so well there for a moment!

Still reading Detroit City is The Place to Be. It's still great. More soon.

Jun. 8th, 2016

reading tiger

reading and listening on schedule

I grew up in Michigan, about two hours away from Detroit and four hours away from Chicago. My father's family still lived in Chicago, and I didn't drive, so my pull was always toward the other side of Lake Michigan -- unlike much of the rest of my hometown, who would head to Detroit regularly for concerts or other daytrips. Still, like many folks I have a soft spot for Detroit. And also a little better grasp of the city's true history. (But only a little.)

I just started reading Mark Binelli's Detroit City Is The Place To Be and already I am damn impressed. Maybe it's the part where he compares 1920s Detroit to the Bay Area (he says Silicon Valley, but his book is a few years old and the Valley had not completed its takeover of points north and east). He didn't intend that passage to resonate like it does to me, reading now, but he has a very large and sobering point.

But there's lots of other good stuff too, and I look forward to reading it.

Speaking of Detroit, this week's earworm column is on the Spinners (known as the Detroit Spinners in the UK).

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/06/07/earworm-weekly-ill-be-around-by-the-spinners

P.S. I stumbled across Binelli's book because of his most recent publication, Screamin' Jay Hawkins' All-Time Greatest Hits, which looks to be a very interesting novel and is on order for me at work. Binelli's first novel, btw, was Sacco and Venzetti Must Die, which also looks interesting and ambitious.

Jun. 1st, 2016

reading tiger

Reading and Listening: short but sweet

Almost through H is for Hawk.

This week's earworm column is on The Bloodhound Gang:

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/05/31/earworm-weekly-the-bad-touch-by-the-bloodhound-gang

May. 25th, 2016

reading tiger

Timeliness! Reading and Listening

This week I reveal a possible origin of my music critic so-called career, through the medium of a bus trip to Canada and an earworm of a U2 song.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/05/24/earworm-weekly-u2s-the-unforgettable-fire

I took a short break from H is for Hawk to read Little Labors by Rivka Galchen. Little Labors is a little book. It is consciously modeled on The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon, and it is about early motherhood, motherhood with a pre-verbal baby. I love everything about it. The discussions of babies in literature and art. The discussions of the absence of women in American literature versus English literature, something I was ranting about just the other day *before* I read that particular passage -- how I cannot remember a single woman author I read in high school American Literature classes, and only a handful from college. Galchen also turns to genre literature -- crime and mysteries -- and specifically mentions contemporary how many contemporary Japanese crime writers are women, both bits of which reminded me of a conversation I had with nihilistic_kid once. Also a discussion of the trendiness of the color orange, Sei Shōnagon herself, and loads of other tasty stuff, including pithy one-liners about other people's children, for example. The miscellany form is so ridiculously well-suited to the material of early motherhood that I am mildly appalled that this is more or less the only book I know that uses it, although structure of The Argonauts is similar. Little Labors may be little, but it's making a big argument about motherhood and writing, albeit doing so obliquely, in a very Pillow Book sort of way if you get my drift, a very subtle, clever, pointed but never full-frontal way.

Previous 10