Here is what I've been up to for the past month in a half.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
MEALS TAKEN IN PUBLIC
TIME OUT FOR A PHOTO
Life in a Day: The creators of this film collected A Day in the Life snippets from contributors around the world for this collage of videos representing a day in June 2010. It's fascinating in its different definitions of ordinariness: women in fields, a man's world bike tour, a young shoe shine boy making a few bucks. Meanwhile, a cow is killed, a goat's throat is slit, children are born and people are married. Twenty-one people die and 500 are injured at a music festival in Germany. I'm always fascinated by the mundane details of people's days and the way my mundane details bump up against your mundane details. This was really interesting. Streaming on Netflix.
Oslo, August 31st: Anders is nearing the end of his stint at a rehabilitation facility and has a day-pass to go to Oslo for a job interview. Along the way he meets up with some old friends -- including faces from his old party scene -- as he considers whether he wants to a) stay sober; b) stay alive. This Norwegian film really does well revealing the complexity of Ander's emotions.
A Scanner Darkly: Chuck just finished the book by Philip K. Dick, so we AP Englished the shit out of this by downloading the movie. It. Is. Awesome. It's semi-animated in a way that Robert Downey, Keanu Reeves and Woody Harrelson are all still recognizable. It's about a guy who is working undercover as part of an investigation into a super terrible drug.
Sleepwalk With Me: We saw this in the theater, which is pretty Whoa in itself. A comedian refuses to give his longtime girlfriend the commitment she wants. In the meantime, he's building a comedy career on the road and she is much of the fodder. This is all so freaking funny and insane and mostly true.
The Ward: This was part of some sort of Hey It's October, We Should Watch Something Scary. Except it was just kind of stupid. Woman in a haunted psychiatric ward with a bunch of other women with varying degrees of mental illness. But something weird is going on and people keep dying.
Rosewood Lane: This supposed to be scary movie stars a weird version of Rose McGowan's face and an evil, sort of other-worldly paperboy who is stalking her. The plot is thin and the characters are implausible. Like, neither the policemen nor her boyfriend -- hilariously named Barrett -- seem to care that this is happening. There is a lot of yelling at the victim.
St. Elmo's Fire: I think I said enough about this movie here.
Blue Velvet: This is a fun movie to think about. I like to imagine that David Lynch woke up one day and said: "What would happen if a sort of naive young man stumbled upon an ear in the middle of a field between his house and the hospital where his father was being treated." The next thing Lynch knows, he's got a character huffing from an oxygen mask and this kid is straddling a really Aw, Shucks life and a seedy underworld filled with violent sex and cops gone bad.
The Grey: This movie about Liam Neeson punching wolves has now become a unit of measure in our house. As in, "This movie is at least half as bad as 'The Grey,' which makes it the second-worst movie I've ever seen." -- Chuck, watching Lifetime
Rid of Me: Chrissie told me I had to see this. She told me that she dry heaved during one of the first scenes of this little indie flick now streaming on Netflix. I ended up falling madly in love with the movie. A happy couple moves back to the dude's hometown, where his old high school friends embrace him but don't really get his wife. She ends up making all these terrible faux pas and it's all like using ink to get wine out of the carpet. Great things unfold.
The Five-Year Engagement: Oh God. I hate Jason Segel. I think I used to like him, but now he strikes me as a one-off. Like a discount actor. Like someone who looks like a different actor, but isn't that actor. Anyway, this a movie about a couple that gets engaged, but keeps postponing the wedding and all this stuff. I guess I didn't mind it. I laughed out loud a few times, admittedly at things Jason Segel said. Maybe I don't hate him. See how I just worked through my feelings?
Katy Perry The Movie: Part of me: I am just madly in love with Katy Perry. I think she's just so adorable. This is an MTV documentary about her last tour which includes interviews with people close to her. As you'll recall, this was the tour of riding on pink clouds and spinning breast plates and all sorts of Candy Land imagery. This was also the newlywed tour, though by the end of it things are splitsville with Russell Brand, who I think is a nightmare. There is this great scene way into her tour where she is just writhing with exhaustion and pain and her keepers are like "should we cancel the show, or is she going to get off this table and get it done?" Soon enough she's vertical, wiping off her face, composing herself and she performs. During the show thousands of fans chant in Portuguese "We love you Katy" and she starts crying on stage, totally moved by the experience.
Moonrise Kingdom: Cripes. If this isn't adorable. But you already know that. Wes Anderson's story about a kid who goes rogue from scout camp and his lovable lady sidekick. So great.
GREAT MOMENTS IN TEXTING
Family of the Year: This is my new favorite band. It reminds me of Camera Obscura, New Pornographers, etc. Stream this shit on Spotify. You won't regret it.
The Best American Short Stories 2011: I gave myself an assignment: One short story from The Best American Short Stories 2011 per night. My theory is that if I’m not doing, I should be reading so that when I do do, I’ll be that much more well-read. See also: Another way in which I justify my procrastination.
The best you can hope for in an anthology of short stories is that it is at least 50 percent readable and that you walk away from it with a) some ideas about structure, content, story arc and dialogue and b) an interest in a new-to-you writer. BASS, curated by Geraldine Brooks, totally succeeds. Full review here.
Triburbia: A Novel by Karl Tao Greenfeld: This book was meant to be a palate cleanser. Books, blerg. My attention span was rotting at the edges and I needed something, but the something was undefinable so I didn’t know where to look. Then Amazon recommended Karl Taro Greenfeld’s debut novel and a copy from the library just happened to be on the kitchen table, my boyfriend’s spontaneous nab from a few weeks earlier.
There are few pleasures as great as going into a book cold, save for the plot summary inside the cover. Especially when the story pushes its boot into your chest and is, gulp, good. When you finish the first chapter, look at the cover and think “Can this possibly be?” Read another chapter and admit Greenfeld is really doing a bang-up job here. Although, admittedly, it loses steam at about halfway through. But those first few chapters say: “Hi. I’m Karl Taro Greenfeld. And I’m going to entertain you with my deft storytelling skillz.” Full review here.
Awkward and Definition: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag (High School Chronicles of Ariel Schrag) by Ariel Schrag: Nothing amps the saturation levels of my vanilla teen years like a coming-of-age collection of comics by someone similarly aged who knew what strawberry bidis were as a ninth grader. Me, age 37, Googling. A: Something to smoke.
Ariel Schrag’s collection Awkward and Definition is the story of her ninth and tenth grade years at Berkeley High School in California. Themes include music, her crushes — both male and female, a rotating cast of friends and makeout partners and the sort of dramatics that occur with teenagers on the loose. This collection is just so cool and her life is this wide-open independent world, light on the fun-suck of supervision. In fact, every time a parent enters a panel I had this “Oh no you’re going to get busted for smoking pot!” panic, obviously some sort of residual fear of authority from my own life, which never came to fruition. Full review here.
May We Be Forgiven: A Novel by A.M. Homes This novel was so super disappointing. Hijinks. Chaos. Farce. Long narrative trips to comedic situations that aren’t very comedic. It all amounts to a painfully tedious story with a self-conscious wacky for the sake of wackiness to it. Cue the scene where Harry puts a full coffee cup on top of his car, realizes he has just seen Don DeLillo and (clarinet music) Harry ends up with coffee all over his windshield. Of. Course.
It is plot-heavy, with a large cast of characters and their individual quirks to keep track of. Episodes start and then fizzle, or go on and on and on well beyond the point of interest, if there is one. Full review here.
The Infinite Wait by Julia Wertz: Julia Wertz’s collection The Infinite Wait and Other Stories is a series of three longer pieces where she considers 1) the litany of shit jobs she’s held, 2) her diagnosis of Systemic Lupus at age 20, 3) the public library and the reading spaces and books that shaped her. The three-pack follows Drinking at the Movies, which is told in quick-hit short bursts of misanthropic comedy and focuses on a year in her life after the big cross country move, but occasionally dips back and mentions things that appear in the stories of her new collection. For the most part, the re-tread works. Especially if both books — and I’d imagine her “Fart Party” stuff, too — is all read at around the same time. The gaps you don’t realize exist in one tend to get filled in the other book and it becomes a bit like piecing together a person’s life puzzle. Full review here.
Malarky by Anakana Schofield: Ankana Schofield’s debut novel Malarky is told in 20 non-chronological periods in Our Woman’s life. It seems to be a post-complacency awakening toward empathy and a larger world view. She’s living in rural Ireland and married to a chilly, awful, maybe attractive man who counts on her for his creature comforts and the occasional screw. They have three children: Two girls that are barely mentioned and Our Woman’s pride, Jimmy, who she was seen getting all up in a neighbor boy down by the barn. This is not information that is going to sit well with Our Woman’s husband, Himself, and she asks Jimmy to keep it quiet and not be bringing boys around the house. Full review here.
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel by Jonathan Evison: This is one of those novels that plays out in Hipstamatic in your head as you read. Benjamin Benjamin is bumbling along, still second-guessing every second of the day his children Piper and Jodi died tragically -- while on his watch -- and unwilling to sign the official paperwork and let his wife fly free with her new NPR-loving boyfriend. He struggles at first to find common ground with his employer, Trev, who has muscular dystrophy. But eventually they settle into a routine that includes waffles for breakfast, lots of The Weather Channel, and an on-going recitation of funny-named sexual acts, a running gag that sounds like something Chuck Palahniuk would cook up. They also begin a project identifying quirky road-side attractions and color-coding them with push pins on a giant map. Full review here.
Lucky by Gabrielle Bell: I also read this one by Gabrielle Bell. It's a nice look at what she can do and who she is, but it doesn't pack the punch that her latest collection, "Voyeurs," does.
Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell: And here it is, part of Bell’s The Voyeurs, a collection of her dear diary-style comics, including some that have appeared on her website and published by Minneapolis-based Uncivilized Books. The whole collection has a sort of through-the-peepholeness, or maybe more like microscope, as Bell creates memoir-like short stories that reveal curiosities about the world and herself. I think I’ve called her this before, but Gabrielle Bell is the the quintessential old-school confessional blogger as cartoonist and her work is generally pieces about things that happen around her in the course of a day — whether real or real at the root then heightened with imaginary, sometimes supernatural, outcomes.
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: This British columnist wants women to stop shaving their coots, but she doesn't think you need to taste your own menstrual blood. Feminism! This book is a riot. And I've cited it in like four conversations since I read it. Full review will be here.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel by Carol Rifka Brunt: This is a great coming-of-age story about a young girl whose favorite uncle has AIDS and is dying. It's set in 1987 and includes all these great 1987-isms. After her uncle dies, June becomes besties with her uncles former lover, a man her family hates and refers to as a murderer. Whatever, I can't do this justice here. But it's a great story. Full review will be here.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novelby Robin Sloan: This is a super fun novel that includes cults and cloaks and old-school tomes as well as Google, codes and a 3D boob industry. Super fun! Full review will be here.
TIME OUT FOR ANOTHER PHOTO
|Chuck and I are rich in photos that look exactly like this one.|