Preference Personnelle
Friday, September 30
"The only reason that we will care about O.J. Simpson 10 years after, 20 years after, is what it told us about race in this country."--Jeffrey Toobin

Next week, there's going to be a Frontline episode about the O.J. Simpson verdict.
Sunday, September 25
Book octet:

Seen Art?, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
It's a charming book for children, about a little kid who walks around MoMA looking for his friend Art. As you might expect, misunderstandings, and hilarity, ensue. While the kid keeps wandering around saying, "I'm just looking for Art," other MoMA patrons point him toward some of the highlights of MoMA's collection, and provide child-sized chunks of aesthetic theory. It's a cute conceit, well-executed, and the end of the book includes more information about all the pieces included. MoMA has quite a collection. By the authors of that Stinky Cheese man book.

The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Will Eisner
The legendary comic artist's last book, Eisner hoped to destroy the myth of the Protocols, which, despite having been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be a fraud, continue to be published, and taken seriously, by thousands of idiots. His hope was that the comic form could reach the masses in a way that academic studies haven't been able to. Beautiful, sweeping, heartbreaking, and highly-recommended. (Foreword by Umberto Eco, which I point out in case there are any Eco completists reading.)

The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears, Nick Jans
Upper-middle-class Northeasterner reinvents himself as a Californian surfer and Patagonia model, then founds a rather touchy-feely bear conservation organization and hangs out with bears in Alaska. He becomes a 'bear whisperer,' makes thousands of schoolchildren bear fans, and attracts disdain from bear biologists and Alaskans in general. Then he gets eaten by a bear. A fascinating story, and told well. As a bonus, the last chapters include some guidelines for what to do if you're attacked by a bear. Annotated bibliography, thorough index.

Retro-Electro: Collecting Technology from Atari to Walkman, Pepe Tozzo
There are collectors guides that are basically long lists of current prices, and there are collectors guides that are basically loving, photo-packed homages. This is in the latter category, which is just fine with me. Covering a period from the '70s or so until basically today, and covering the whole world of consumer electronics, being comprehensive is probably an impossible task. Nevertheless, the book manages to hit most of the major trends in design and technology of the last few decades. It also makes me nostalgic for the Little Professors and Merlins (that one's a modern reproduction) of my childhood, and yearn for a Linn turntable, vintage Bang and Olufsen stereo components and Blueroom Minipod speakers. Things to keep in mind, if you've got more money than you know what to do with.

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Peter Guralnick
Guralnick is both a scholar and a longtime lover of soul music, and this book is at once sweeping and personal, moving smoothly between anecdotes about Solomon Burke and musing on race, class and Southern culture. A compelling read for devoted fans and curious music lovers.

Fred the Clown, Roger Langridge
Darkly comic and occasionally absurd, Fred is my new favorite non-Krusty clown.

A Portrait of Yo Mama as a Young Man, Andrew Barlow and Kent Roberts
It sounds like the forced laughter of a thousand art-house movie patrons, but maybe that's something you'd dig.

It's Not Easy Being Me: A Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs, Rodney Dangerfield
I love Dangerfield, and this is probably the best book I've ever read by a stand-up comedian who isn't Dick Gregory or Richard Belzer.

And two endorsements: things to put on your keyring

Buck Metro
It's a tiny lock-blade knife, and a bottle opener. It does both of those things really well.

Leatherman Micra
It's a folding pair of scissors, a really tiny knife, a nail file, a few tiny screwdrivers, a bottle opener, and a couple things I'm forgetting. It does some of those things really well. Personally, I mostly drink beer and cut things, but the appeal of a tiny pair of scissors can't be denied. (The Leatherman Squirt is the updated version--it's twice as expensive, and not twice as good.)
Tuesday, September 6
Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo, Terisa Green
A pretty good read for people who are considering, or who have already decided on, getting a first tattoo. For everyone else (a group that probably includes most people reading this), it's not bad, but undistinguished. If I had cataloged it, I'd've tried to get it in the Young Adult section. There are better books about the culture (like Bodies of Inscription and the charmingly-dated Modern Primitives), better books about the fashion (like the works of Ted Polhemus) and plenty of books with more photos, which, I suspect, is what many people are really looking for in a book about tattoos (if you're one of these folks, here's one suggestion: Henk Scheffmacher's 1000 Tattoos). All that said, this book has an excellent and thorough bibliography/reading list, which is a huge plus.

Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco, Peter Shapiro
This is like Can't Stop Won't Stop, or Wake the Town and Tell the People, or England's Dreaming, or I could go on like this, except about disco. It's deep, broad and very good, attempting to connect disco to those other '70s musical revolutions, punk and hip-hop (reggae and art-jazz also get occasional mentions) and to the particular libertinism that marked the decade. Highly recommended for music fans, cultural history fans, etc. Lavish, incredibly thorough timeline, footnotes, discography, bibliography, index and song title index--works well as either a scholarly resource or fascinating pleasure reading. Even though I don't particularly care for disco music (though I like the Hues Corporation. 'Rock the Boat!' 'Telegram of Love!'), this is highly recommended.

Confessions of a Video Vixen, Karrine 'Superhead' Steffans
Fun, but terrible, and filled with obvious revelations: Kool G. Rap doesn't treat women very well. The hip-hop industry is rather misogynist. Shaq's a big guy. Fred Durst has a pierced penis (yet, for some reason, I suspect this one might not be true. Wasn't there a Durst blowjob video floating around not long after Paris Hilton's Sidekick got hacked? I don't plan on actually researching these questions, and I'm confident that 'Superhead' would know better than I would). Dame Dash is a big spender. Xzibit rolls a good blunt. Gossip aside, though, this is a pretty dumb book. There's a sentence toward the middle that reads something like 'I was the hip-hop industry version of a prostitute--I would visit the artists and producers and have sex with them, and they would give me money.' Honey, that's not the hip-hop version of a prostitute, that's just a regular old prostitute.
A lagniappe of cultural kitsch and B-movie claptrap

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