Preference Personnelle
Sunday, September 28
Harold Bloom disses Stephen King, and J. K. Rowling for that matter. Also, he says that he knows four working American novelists who are doing something worthwhile--Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy and Don DeLillo.
Thursday, September 25
I don't much like Popular Science magazine, but I like this feature: The Worst Jobs in Science
Links: This is a NYT article about the MPAA's efforts to nip movie file-sharing in the bud. Better, here is, from the MPAA/Junior Achievement reeducation program, a crossword puzzle. Slashdot users have sarcastic asides. Linked to in the /. comments, the Moses Avalon Royalty Calculator. And, since I'm reminded of it, Steve Albini's 'The Problem With Music' essay.
"Contrary to what you may have heard from Henry Rollins or/and Ian MacKaye and/or anyone else who joined a band after working in an ice cream shop, you can't really learn much about a person based on what kind of music they happen to like. As a personality test, it doesn't work even half the time. However, there is at least one thing you can learn: The most wretched people in the world are those who tell you they like every kind of music "except country." People who say that are boorish and pretentious at the same time. All it means is that they've managed to figure out the most rudimmentary rule of pop sociology; they know that hipsters gauge the coolness of others by their espoused taste in sound, and they know that hipsters hate modern country music. And they hate it because it speaks to normal people in a tangible, rational manner. Hipsters hate it because they hate Midwesterners, and they hate Southerners, and they hate people with real jobs."--from 'Fargo Rock City' author Chuck Klosterman's new book, 'Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs,' which, despite the lame title, is really good. Or, as Klosterman might say, now that he's got a little confidence, really fucking good. One of my lasting regrets after moving from Akron is that I never tried to contact him and, y'know, hang out.
Wednesday, September 24
Links: Awful Plastic Surgery, a weblog about celebrities and, yeah., also self-explanatory. Very appealing stuff, with swoopy lines (rims, mostly) that evoke a lot of the things I like about modern furniture design. Nerve's list of 50 unsexy things. Nu metal, Friendster, fan fiction, I could go on like this. Two articles about Tibet: a NYT op-ed piece and an article from commentary site, not to be confused with the Swans' site. I've been perusing news/opinion site, and thus far I'm something of a fan.

I really don't want to write about skype, especially since I've yet to use it, but here are some comments from folks on slashdot, mefi and corante's many2many.

Tuesday, September 23
Endorsement: I just finished reading David Quammen's 'Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind,' and I absolutely loved it. Quammen is, in my mind, the best nature writer working today, maybe even the best natural-science writer, or science writer in general. His essay collections are great, but in book-length work he really shines. If you haven't read his 'Song of the Dodo,' I'd strongly encourage reading that one too. Quammen is the jam.
Friday, September 19
Ooh, It's Johnny Cash's last interview.
Monday, September 15
Here's an article from the Washington Post that serves as a nice roundup of mainstream-media opinions on the RIAA and file-sharing.
Saturday, September 13
Read and partially-read, part 3. This seems to be becoming an ongoing thing.


All My Life for Sale, by John D. Freyer. There's a lot of crap on eBay. There's a weird kind of privilege that comes from being a hipster. Conceptual art is kind of hit-or-miss. Artists' statements are often badly written. If you already know all of these things, you might as well skip this book. Freyer includes a lot of pictures of his thrift-store duds and secondhand kitsch. Big deal. I've got a bunch of this crap myself, but I never thought that selling it all on eBay would make for compelling reading.

Drop City, by T.C. Boyle. I don't read a lot of fiction, but I've long enjoyed Tom's writing, and this book is actually getting decent reviews. It's quite entertaining. It's got Alaska in it, and hippies, and death. What more could someone like me want?

The First Book of Jazz, by Langston Hughes. Hughes doesn't get enough credit for his children books. This is no 'First Book of Rhythms,' but I'm still a big fan.

The Gospel According to The Simpsons, by Mark I. Pinsky. It's pretty okay, but I might only think that because I'm an obsessive Simpsons fan. People who aren't, and aren't, y'know, in the biz (ministry, not television), probably won't like it as well. Obsessive Simpsons fans, incidentally, will be bothered by the way he mistakes Snake's voice for Otto's in the 'God's private stash' line from the Bible episode. That's just an example.

The Hipster Handbook, by Robert Lanham. I had this on my Amazon wishlist, but now I think I'll be content having just read it, especially after finding that, for example, most all the listed hipster hip-hop groups are Def Jukies, and that the authors expect people to come away from 'Gimme Shelter' with a crush on Mick. Do I still have my copy of 'Generation Ecch'? At any rate, these books are too often the literary equivalent of yearbook signatures. That said, it has already proved a rich source of inside jokes with some of my coworkers, and my pal Aretha is a huge fan.

How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle, by William Poundstone. I'm a huge fan of Poundstone's stuff, and this is no exception. His career arc has included exposes of secret ingredients and magic tricks, explications of the prisoner's dilemma and game theory, and a biography of Carl Sagan (yeah, the list items' structure isn't parallel--screw you). This book, about Microsoft and other tech companies' use of logic problems as an interviewing tool, somehow seems simultaneously like a great departure and a culminating experience.

I Want That!: How We All Became Shoppers, by Thomas Hine. Unlike most books about shopping and consumerism, ones that I read anyway, this book avoids the worst excesses of people like James Twitchell on one hand and Paco Underhill on the other.

The Murder of Biggie Smalls, by Cathy Scott. For somebody who didn't know the first thing about the music industry or rap culture (she thinks Craig Mack is a 'powerhouse artist'), Scott has gotten a lot of mileage out of this story. She's no novelist, and, but for rare exceptions, this book doesn't contain any new insight. I wonder what Ronin Ro is working on these days.


Best Business Writing of the Year 2003, edited by Andrew Leckey and Allan Sloan. I only read a few articles. Most interesting to me were 'The Economic Strain on the Church,' by William C. Symonds, and David Diamond's 'The Trucker and the Professor.'

The Foxfire Book of Wine Making: Recipes and Memories in the Appalachian Tradition. That's something good about Arkansas--an excellent supply of Foxfire books. This one includes recipes for corncob, rhubarb and dandelion wines, as well as potato homebrew, mead and persimmon beer. And, like all Foxfire books (well, except for the Joyce Carol Oates one), there's a lot of alternately-poignant-and-hilarious primary-source reminiscing from wizened old hilljacks, a group that Stacey, having never heard the word 'hilljacks,' refers to as 'Billy-Bobs.'

How to Hide Anything, by Michael Connor. Exactly what it sounds like. A good mix of common-sense advice and lunatic schemes. It's got the funny illustrations, but just doesn't have that tone of deranged paranoia I was looking for, though. And anyone planning to read it seriously should note that it's dated.

Rock Voices: The Best Lyrics of an Era, edited by Matt Damsker. I only picked this one up because it disturbed me that it's cataloged as a children's book. Acid is mentioned, in terms of mind expansion, on the jacket copy, for Chrissake. At least their version of The Doors' 'The End' has the decency to uses ellipses in the "Mother, I want to..." part. And like most books along these lines, it's amusingly dated (e.g., 'Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,' the suggestion that Stephen Stills is Neil Young's artistic equal). Again, lots of unintentional comedy to be found herein.

Upon reflection, I decided to hang onto these a little longer:

Dead Cities, by Mike Davis. I love Mike Davis. And I just learned he won a MacArthur fellowship. He so deserves it.

Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Political Science of the Atomic Bomb, by Jim Ottaviani and others. It's a graphic novel. About the history of science. And the making of the atom bomb. If one of those doesn't alienate you, perhaps another will. Me, though, I find this book beautiful and compelling, but I can't quite manage to sit down and read it.

The Wisdom of Big Bird (And the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons From a Life in Feathers, by Carroll Spinney. Cheesy, but hard to resist. The few sections I've leafed through have also managed to be funny and touching.

O.J. Simpson books returned, to be read another day, when my waning O.J. obsession waxes into full phase:

Beyond O.J.: Race, Sex and Class Lessons for America, by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Ph.D. Hutchinson's other books include things like 'The Myth of Black Capitalism' and 'Mugging of Black America.' Someday, I will read his O.J. book.

Birth of a Nation 'hood: Gaze, Script and Spectacle in the O.J. Simpson Case, edited by Toni Morrison and Claudia Brodsky Lacour. Morrison's introduction compares the Simpson case to Melville's 'Benito Cereno,' and skillfully avoids saying whether she thinks he did it.

Mistrial of the Century: A Private Diary of the Jury System on Trial, by Tracy Kennedy. One of the jurors. From the book jacket, it appears she didn't enjoy being sequestered. From virtually every other O.J. book I've ever read, it appears she isn't necessarily very bright. I want to have read this, but not to read it.

The Other Woman: My Years with O.J. Simpson: A Story of Love, Trust, and Betrayal, by Paula Barbieri. Not just one but two colons in the title. Full of unintentional comedy, I'm sure, but I'm intensely wary of books that end with the author becoming a born-again Christian.

Postmortem: The O.J. Simpson Case: Justice Confronts Race, Domestic Violence, Lawyers, Money and the Media, edited by Jeffrey Abramson.

The Spectacle: Media and the Making of the O.J. Simpson Story, by Paul Thaler. What can I say about these last two but that I'm a sucker for a pseudo-academic title. Wow, there are a lot of colons in these O.J. books.
Thursday, September 11
Three endorsements:

The Packtowl. This thing absorbs crazy amounts of water and gets softer and more absorbent with use. From saturation, one can wring out 90% of the water. Alas, you're left with a towel that's 10% wet, but that's just fine for wiping the sweat from your brow on a hike/run/ride/whatever. And it's from the same fine folks who make Thermarest pads.

The Tableturns 4th anniversary DVD: A Great Day in Turntablism. I've yet to watch all of it, but my favorite parts so far are Q-bert scratching without a mixer and the Roc Raida/Total Eclipse beat-juggling routine. Here's an Amazon link, but don't buy it from them, for crying out loud. Support the underground (hey dude, how about a free tape?) Try

Last but not least, Mr. Lif's 'I, Phantom' album. Is Lif the best Boston MC since Guru, or the best ever? Is this the first great hip-hop concept album? Maybe, though I feel like I'm forgetting something. At any rate, Lif is amazingly good. I slept on this album for about a year, partially because of my unfortunate tendency to confuse him with Company Flow-er Mr. Len, but after seeing him rhyme live on the Def Jux DVD, I had to cop the album.
Text message from Aretha: Hey Joe, I'm on the train listening to two corporate jerk offs complain about there being no federal holiday for 9-11.

And via my pal Ashley, a Mark Fiore animation: A Nation Remembers. Here's last year's edition.
Wednesday, September 10
Here's a Wired article, via Slashdot, about a company that sells major labels aggregated statistics about file-sharing activity.
A lagniappe of cultural kitsch and B-movie claptrap

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