RSS Feed

‘books’ Category

  1. yo ho ho

    May 25, 2010 by jjosh

    I post this 'cuz I just finished reading Treasure Island. I got this app Stanza for the iphone which lets you read any public domain work that's in Project Gutenberg. It's pretty handy to have something to read on the phone when waiting and you don't have a book, like at the garage or sometimes on the subway, etc. So I was looking through the public domain books and saw Treasure Island, downloaded it and wow was it good! Rollicking great adventure, well told, and with so much pirate canon it was amazing. There's a great pirate toast in there that they make before drinking:

    Here's to ourselves and hold your luff / Plenty of prizes and plenty of duff!

    Is that where the Simpsons got it from?

  2. Mad Vampires

    August 10, 2009 by jjosh


    Been thinking about vampires a bit. A while back I read this kfan post regarding Tru Blood and Mad Men, and it keeps coming back into my frontal brain, especially as the Mad Men hype machine goes into overload preparing for the upcoming season. I’ve seen only the smallest clip of Blood, but it made me feel odd, and I have no clue if I’d like it. And I do Like Mad Men, though I understand kfan’s ambivalence.

    And then last night Maxine and I watched an episode of Intervention and it made me feel awful. I hated the thing, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. As Max pointed out, at its core it’s a show about people helping other people. Friends and relatives who so love someone that they go to this crazy length to help them. Which is true, but there’s something so voyeuristic and exploitative about it that I feel it kind of cancels out all the love. Like, if you’re doing this out of love, why on earth would you want the cameras there?! That’s not going to help.

    I think A & E picked up Random 1 in part because of Intervention’s success, but I think Random 1 did it cleaner — when we appeared in someone’s life to help them, it felt like winning the lottery, like against all the odds here are these 2 guys who have shown up help! Amazing!

    Then today seeing one of the Mad Men bus stop posters I started thinking about how advertising and junk tv sucks the life right out of you. How you feel awful after that stuff, how advertisers are trying so hard to get you to do things, buy things. An article in today’s NYT about Woodstock and how it was the last time that advertisers would miss out on opportunity like that to merchandise a movement, a demographic. I have a book called The Conquest of Cool that is all about that, about the machinations that inevitably transform the underground cool into the purchasable mainstream; it reads like a grad school text, so I’ve never gone truly deep into it, but maybe now’s the time.

    In other words, it’s the advertising guys that are the true vampires here. The guys who spend their entire careers trying to get people to give their vital essences up to buy products, to watch shows. JG sent me a book that was about a 60-minutes style tv show where vampires start to take over the show. It was pretty good, kind of simple clean spooky fun, with a metaphor built into it about the camera and people’s relationship to it.

    All I’m saying is that if you think of Mad Men as a vampire story, it has a true ring to it. It’ll be interesting to see if that bears out over season 3.

  3. the border between cool and lame

    January 19, 2009 by jjosh

    For Christmas I got a bunch of 33 & 1/3’s, (also, Gamera does a good job of explaining them here) but without a doubt the most interesting one was on Celine Dion’s "Let’s Talk About Love". Not so much a critique of the actual album (although it is that), it’s more a critical examination of taste, and what it means to like something or dislike something. How our tastes develop (along economic lines, social lines, cultural lines), what is meant by the social currency of cool — all this interesting snooty critical theory stuff with Celine Dion as the springboard. It’s pretty great.

    One of the more interesting lines of thought in the book was our fear of liking things that are overly sentimental, or tacky. He posits a theory that part of our dislike of these things is that they make us feel too much, they threaten to pull too much emotion out of us, and that we resist this so that we can still feel we have a hold on our emotions, that we are in control of our feelings. But maybe this isn’t the best thing for us, maybe it would be good for us if we could feel things strongly, really let ourselves go and feel the emotion that certain works of art are trying so desperately to make us feel.

    The great thing was that I was reading a lot of this book in LA at our hotel pool — a pool that was too close to the freeway so they blasted middle-of-the-road rock to drown out the traffic noise. I’m reading this stuff about maybe giving in to the emotion and I’m listening to "Livin on a Prayer" and "Blinded by the Light" and so on. I tried to feel what it felt like to give in to these songs and it was interesting as anything. Reminded me of going to church and saying to myself "just for fun I’m going to feel what it would feel like to really BELIEVE. How does it feel? Just give in…" There’s something to it, it’s valuable somehow.

    So recently whenever I see or hear something that makes me cringe a little, I try to let go of that feeling and just embrace whatever it is that’s making me cringe. This seems to be particularly effective when dealing with new pop culture stuff that’s right on the border of cool/lame. I love seeing things where I can’t tell if it’s great or if it’s weak. This guy Juiceboxxx is right there. I def appreciate the energy, and I can tell part of it is a goof, and part of it is super serious, but I just can’t make up my mind about it. I know I don’t need to have it on my ipod, but I like watching the video (it’s also a great video). Plus he’s 21, and from Milwaukee, and it seems like so much of his vibe is about being for the kids and I love that. What do you think?