Friday, March 28, 2014

Dead Set with Desire (Book Review)

Published: Sept 2008
Indignation - Philip Roth B

Another Philip Roth novel, another slow starter. But, when Roth's stories kick into gear they tend to drive an emotional dagger through my soul and prompt a re-investigation of my own ruinous behavior and mortality. Indignation, Roth's 25th novel, is set in 1951 during the Korean War.  The protagonist, Marcus Messner, is an  overachieving college sophomore who recently transferred from a small college in his home town of Newark to a conservative college in Ohio... mainly to escape his overprotective father.  In Ohio, Marcus encounters the typical ups and downs of college life.  He also becomes enamored by the lovely, but unstable, Olivia Hutton.  On their first date, Olivia performs fellatio on Marcus and that pretty much signals the beginning of the end for our protagonist. 

However, Indignation is about more than I have described above.  It is about: the relationship between a father and son, life during war time, death, and being a Jewish immigrant in America. But, one of the moments that hit me hardest was an exchange between Marcus and his mother.  (Spoiler Alert!) She begs him not to see Olivia any more, she warns him, "Weak people are not harmless," which leads  Marcus to a crescendo of confusing emotions.

There is a "wow" factor that often accompanies a Philip Roth book, and this one is no exception.  His books may require a little patience in the beginning, but so far they have been worthwhile in the end.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Good God (Music Review)

Released March 2014
Withered Hand - New Gods B+

Spring has sprung and I have a serious contender for my 2014 summer soundtrack. The latest offering from Withered Hand is infectious, accessible, smart, and sounds great loud with the windows rolled down. Under the surface it flirts with some heavy themes, above the surface it just sounds like good, clean, commercial alt-pop. My favorite tracks here include: "Horseshoe," "California," "Fall Apart," "Life of Doubt," and "Black Tambourine."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume I - Movie Review

Nymphomasiac: Volume I (NR)  118 mins C
There will be sex

Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy martin, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman and Christian Slater

I went to see Nymphomaniac: Volume I not because I thought it would be a well-acted cinematic gem, but because the one and only review I read prior to seeing it promised (I'm paraphrasing): lots of explicit sex, intrigue, and a decent storyline. Despite the review I still had my doubts... and my hopes. But, I figured the worst case scenario would be having to sit through two hours of copious, nearly pornographic sex- it's a tough job.  And no, this is not (technically) a porno. It's playing at local art houses in major cities, it's written and directed by Lars Von Triers (2011's Melancholia), and stars the likes of Shia Labeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Slater, and a scene stealing Uma Thurman.

However, this film is not for the timid mainstream moviegoer. Some will consider this porn masquerading as art. Others, will simply consider it a two hour porno with too much talking.  Nevertheless, this very cheesy, often lame, and sometimes (unintentionally) funny film managed to peak my curiosity about what happens next (Volume II hits theatres within weeks). Nymphomaniac: Volume I is totally stupid; From the ridiculous metal soundtrack, to its philosophical leanings about love, sex, loneliness and nature.  But, this LVT film has just the right mix of absurdities to make it a bonafide cult classic and enough perversion to make it a guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

You're the one for me, Fatty (Book Review)

Published: Sept 2011 
Fat Girl - Jessie Carty  A-

Fat Girl by Jessie Carty is a collection of poems that are memorable, authentic, and in a manner of speaking, naked. I love the imagery and reality these poems evoke. Much like the Woman of Willendorf, Fat Girl is a work of art that lets it all hang out. My favorites include:

Woman of Willendoff: The Artifact
Basic Geometry
Fat Girl at the OB/GYN
Class Reunion
I'm Trying Weight Watchers

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sea Change Part II (Music Review)

Released Feb 2014
Morning Phase - Beck B+

Morning Phase is Beck's first studio album since 2008's Modern Guilt, and is billed as a companion piece to 2002's achingly melancholy Sea Change.  Personally, I really liked Sea Change because at the time it was a radical change in direction in Becks music and his life - a break up (I have always been a sucker for the "break up" album).  Morning Phase has nothing to do with a break up, that I know of, and ultimately it might be a better album than Sea Change because it's more consistent from beginning to end. But regardless of which is better, both albums cover similar terrain and both are delightful in that quiet, moody, introspective kind of way.  My favorite tracks include: "Country Down," "Blackbird Chain," "Unforgiven,"and "Say Goodbye." 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Getting Up to Get Down (Book Review)

Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile - Nate Jackson B

Published: Sept 2013
Once I stopped trying to compare Slow Getting Up to 2008's A Few Seconds of Panic by Stefan Fatsis, I settled in and enjoyed this book. Jackson's account of life in the NFL is entertaining, insightful and light-hearted despite the brutal injuries and subsequent procedures he had to endure during his playing career. Jackson's stint in the NFL my have been cut short, but his writing career looks to be long and winning.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stains of Despair (Music Review)

Released Feb. 2014
Angel Guts: Red Classroom - Xui Xui B

Xui Xui's latest album, Angel Guts: Red Classroom is the best horror film soundtrack that's not really a horror film soundtrack.  Frontman and songwriter Jamie Stewart is absolutely unapologetic for his doom and gloom, his isolation, and his suicidal thoughts.  On Angel Guts, perhaps their most abrasive album yet, Xui Xui ups the scariness, despair and loneliness.  The beauty is that it feels real, not manufactured.  The albums was inspired by a 1979 Japanese porno of the same name.  My favorite tracks include: "Lawrence Liquors," "Black Dick," "New Life Immigration," "Bitter Melon," and "Botanica de Los Angeles."