Sunday, April 19, 2009

White Teeth; a playlist.

I haven't read anything non-academic since spring break apart from reading Zadie Smith's White Teeth twice, and I love that book far too much to review it objectively. Seriously, just read it. I have nothing negative to say-- I finished it, then immediately turned to page one and started re-reading it. That's how wonderful it is. I mean, if you are not as obsessed with families, religious pluralism, the fact that technology is taking over the world, and interactions between minority groups as well as between the minority and the majority, then you might not fall in love with it. But you also probably don't enjoy me very much and aren't reading this blog in the first place.

Because of my non-reading-ness (it will be so much better in four weeks, everybody), I've started to reorganize my iTunes and make playlists in order to more sufficiently calm myself down. I mean, what else would someone do when they are overwhelmed with the amount of legitimate things that must be accomplished in a limited amount of time?

Today, I realized that I have officially entered cabin fever mode. So, of course, I had to make a mixtape in honor of this-- particularly because I have not been listening to music that does this mood justice. I mean, don't get me wrong. I love Andrew Bird and Fleet Foxes and Feist, but they do not sound like this I-want-to-bust-out-of-my-own-skin-or-if-I-can't-do-that-I-want-to-drive-around-with-the-windows-down-listening-to-fab-music feeling I have going on whenever Wisconsin weather is in that weird spring-summer transition.

Note: It is currently a very dreary day today. But we used to be in that awkward warm transition phase, and I have the sunburned nose to prove it.

So, here is the tracklist of the CD that I listen to so I feel less inclined to bolt to California without leaving a trace behind so I can be in the warmth and not in Astronomy lab. Some of them are random, some are probably overplayed in the radio, which I would know if I listened to it.

1. Charlotte Martin, "Veins"
2. Dr. Dog, "Hang On"
3. Tegan and Sara, "Back in Your Head"
4. Lily Allen, "The Fear (Stonebridge Remix)"
5. Architecture in Helsinki, "Like It or Not (Version 2)"
6. Kate Nash, "Mouthwash"
7. Phoenix, "1901"
8. De Novo Dahl, "Shout"
9. Kings of Leon, "Sex on Fire"
10. Arcade Fire, "Rebellion (Lies)"
11. Broken Social Scene, "7/4 (Shoreline)"
[I just realized how many parentheses are in this tracklist. I love parenthetical statements, so this is appropriate.]
12. MGMT, "Kids"
13. The Ting Tings, "Shut Up and Let Me Go"
14. Nada Surf, "Blankest Year"
15. Stars, "Reunion"
16. Metric, "Gimme Sympathy"
17. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Hysteric"

I promise I'll update this more frequently and more substantially when I have time to read things that are not listed on syllabi.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Good and Happy Child - Justin Evans

First of all, a confession: I bought this book for the cover. It is an awesome artistic hybrid of Where the Wild Things Are and the cover of the non-white version of Catcher in the Rye.

I am not as in love with the book as I am with the cover art, but I thought it was very good. Evans is a very talented writer and the story is interesting and well-researched. I loved the characterization and the vaguely Southern Gothic mood of it.

However, it's not as good as I might have liked. I felt a definite sense of something missing, and I've thought of three possible reasons for it:

Possible reason one: A review compared it to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which is one of my favorite books of all time. This was not as creepy or as fast-paced as that (or really anything like it), but it was still unsettling and a quick read. (Also, you should probably read The Secret History as soon as possible.)

Possible reason two: I think my skepticism about the main theme (demonic possession) kept me from getting drawn in as much as some reviewers seemed to be. I wanted to be more emotionally involved, but I just wasn't. I couldn't suspend my sense of reality, for one reason or another. So if you are less cynical and clinical than I am, you might not have the desire for more from this book.

Possible reason three: I found the details more interesting than the main thread of the story itself. I want to read further academically into things that were mentioned in passing rather than the main theme of the story.

Also, this book becomes a lot funnier if you picture Tom, Clarissa, and the godfather (the name slips my mind at the moment) as your various eccentric professors. Example: I imagined Tom as this professor I have for philosophy who, two weeks ago, gave a whole hour-long lecture with his fly unzipped. Instant hilarity.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dark Was The Night (2-Disc Compilation)

While I'm getting to tell you glorious creatures about a book I liked but felt was lacking something I can't name and another book I fell wildly in love with this past week, I'm going to take a break from being my word nerd self and pretty much order you to download something: the two-disc various artists compilation Dark Was The Night. They talk about it constantly on XM43, and you can download it illegally or pay $15.99 for it on iTunes, which is what I did because I am a bleeding-heart liberal and I like that my money went to programs which will promote AIDS/HIV prevention. Also, it is a bargain because you actually get 32 songs, so it's like you get every song for fifty cents!

Also, there is a rumor it's only $9.99 on Amazon but it's probably roughly $16 when you factor shipping in and everything? Unless Amazon is high-tech and you can download music off it now. I don't know. I only ever buy used books from there. You figure that out.

Anyway, the guys from The National curated (that is, I'm told, the correct word) this collection and it is awesome. Get it ASAP. There are a few weak spots, but they are "weak" in the sense that it's just not the artist's strongest song ever-- not "weak" in the sense of the new Flo Rida song, which makes me want to never bring children into a terrible world where something like that can become popular.

If you're broke but still want to donate money, get individual songs. A few tracks are album-only on iTunes, but the most awesome ones are not. My personal favorite is "Train Song" by Feist and Ben Gibbard, but I would also highly recommend "Brackett, WI" by Bon Iver, "Hey, Snow White" by the New Pornographers, and "Another Saturday" by Stuart Murdoch (it is to the tune of my favorite church song! but not churchy! hence the exclamation points and lack of capitalization oh god am I sleep deprived!).

But, really, you should just get the whole thing. As quickly as possible.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates

I should probably preface this by saying that I haven't seen the movie yet, so the book kind of exists in an insular book-bubble for me, although I totally pictured Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio as the main characters. I'll probably end up seeing the movie, but now I am fully braced for how depressing it will be and know to only watch it when I'm in a good mood so that I don't end up hanging myself.

In other words: It's one of the more depressing books I've read lately.

On the upside: It's beautifully written. The characters, while not necessarily likable in the absolute sense of the word, are relatable. It's an interesting study of gender roles and societal restrictions in the 1950's, not just in the marriage between the main characters but from top to bottom.

But, again, it's highly depressing. It left me feeling all sad and gutted and empty. You probably should only read this book if you're single (if you're bitter about relationships/marriage, you might actually gain happiness from this book, but you are also probably a serial killer or something) or if you have special powers that keep really depressing books from getting all up in your head. Or if you just really like books about the various ways in which the 1950's kind of sucked for people. If you fulfill any of these categories, though, look into it, because it is a well-paced and well-written book.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Depressing Article, TV Recommendation.

This ran in the New York Times a few days ago, and I thought it was both fascinating and horribly depressing.

It's a quick read, and worth looking through. I've been thinking about it a lot since I read it-- in fact, it's stuck with me as much as any of the books I read over this vacation, possibly because I've never thought (never had to think) that much about the issue of violence in teenage couples.

Also, because I love tangents and what better place for a tangent than my first post, if you have access to Showtime or are unopposed to finding the episodes on the internet, you should probably watch United States of Tara.

I'm watching Frozen River right now so there may be a review of that coming if my family can be quiet (read: if my grandmother can stop being confused about the genders of characters) long enough for me to fully determine some comments on the movie. Plus, I'm going to tell you about books I read for fun in the eight days I had off school in order to read books for fun.

An Introductory Post.

I am going to keep a blog with quick reviews of things I read. Warning: a lot of this reading, at least until May (barring the slim possibility that I manage to get my life under control before that point), will be things I read in class and particularly like or dislike, and things from newspapers/magazines, with the occasional book I read for fun thrown in.

I will also probably take the liberty of telling you what music you should download.

And I might mention movies every so often, but most of them will be like this: "I was watching IFC today while I was pretending to study for Astronomy, and this movie came on with so-and-so in it and it kind of sucked."

Anyway, this is largely for myself, because I don't remember things that I don't put down on paper (literal paper/fake interweb paper) and because things I read are particularly important things to me, but if you want to read it and leave comments with your own thoughts on these things or recommendations or whatever pops into your mind, I'm not stopping you.