Other books, which no one will read: Nemesis by Chalmers Johnson, the third of his American Empire trilogy, didn't add much to The Sorrows of Empire. I've been re-reading some of the essays in Joseph Mitchell's Up In the Old Hotel, which I read my first summer in New York (six fucking years ago!) and is even better now. I remain sad about not liking The Yiddish Policemen's Union.
John From Cincinnati. This show might be the fucking awesomeness and the triumph and the tits and that's the truth. I've read comparisons to Robert Altman, which seem not inaccurate but not quite there, and it's been called "surf noir," which doesn't seem quite right, and to me it's got a certain feel of serious Coen Brothers (Blood Simple; Miller's Crossing) before they got all flip. (If, like me, you've been saddened by recent Coen Brothers output, No Country for Old Men had a great response at Cannes.) The marketing unimpressive, the premise exhausting, but this is may be underpromising and overdelivering. Magic realism isn't normally my bag but I'm finding these characters more interesting than any on HBO since Six Feet Under and The Sopranos dropped out of the birth canal.
Flight of the Conchords. I hated the first episode and originally planned to write a merciless bashing. The second episode had better footing. It's nothing special -- it would do fine on NBC -- but it's engaging enough and unlike Entourage appears to be about people who actually do things and have conversations and shit. I sort of wish they'd shot for something trickier than a couple of hipsters living on the Lower East Side: What if the dudes were from Alabama, and instead of playing boring indie lameness they did some kind of weird Robbie Fulks country music, and the show didn't have such a smug tone? It's a step up from HBO's string of nightmares (Lucky Louie, The Comeback, Entourage, Tourgasm).
(Pedantic digression: they clearly live in a one-bedroom on either Forsythe or Chrystie Street, but there are a bunch of exteriors shot around Brooklyn, and why the hell was one of the musical sequences (which I don't think add much to the show) set at the Marcy Avenue stop at the JMZ? I spend half the time trying to figure out where they are in the city and what they're doing there.)
Big Love. Like the axiom about Chinese food (which I've never found true) Big Love is always filling at the time, and then an hour later you're hungry. Always engaging, somewhat affecting, its stories have never amounted to much, but with such strong actors and a premise with legs, I always enjoy it. This season has centered more heavily on Barb, the smartest and most likable of the group. I find myself rooting for Barb and wanting her to pull away; for Bill to get his comeuppance; and for his son (a bigger tool than AJ Soprano) to get smacked into reality.
The White Stripes, Icky Thump. Sheer fucking fun, a total thrill, goddamn son. "You Don't Know What Love Is ..." is the missing track from Sticky Fingers. Listened to it in bed this morning and tried to imagine the song with Mick's voice and it worked. "St. Andrew ..." is fearsome: it brought to mind the acid-trip sequence in Easy Rider. "St. Andrew ..." segues into "Little Cream Soda," which sounds like music to get murdered by. I'm not a White Stripes cultic and tend to underestimate them, then every time I put on one of their albums I have small epiphanies. This time, there's no diversion like "It's True That We Love One Another" or "Passive Manipulation." The album is exciting and relentless.
Unrelated: There's a trailer up for Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, based on an Upton Sinclair book and starring Daniel Day Lewis. It will surely be awesome-assed.
Books to read:
- Falling Man, by Don DeLillo. The reviews were tough, but the first 25 pages are excellent, something close to his old form after disasters Cosmopolis and The Body Artist.
- On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan. Based on the New Yorker excerpt, I don't expect to like it.
- Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan. A palette cleanser.
- Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. I didn't like the first two sections, but it may be a slow-burn kind of book.
- Mrs. Dalloway. To the Lighthouse is the only Virginia Woolf I've read.
- Moby Dick. A re-reading is overdue.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning, by Jonathan Mahler. I like sports, politics, and New York.
- The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore. I've been reading too many of these kinds of books lately.
- Nixon and Kissinger, by Robert Dallek. Maybe?
- Cicero, by Anthony Everitt. Probably not going to happen. Studied some of the Greeks in college, but the Romans are a gap in my edjukayshin.
- Wilco. Even though the new album blows.
- The Polyphonic Spree. They're not a band to "get into," but their live shows are an awesome, crushing spectacle.
- Besnard Lakes. They released a lovely and striking album, but this one is a roll of the dice.
- The White Stripes. Floor seats at the Garden, motherfuckers.
- The Hold Steady. Live at Prospect Park? Not the venue I'd pick for them, but they haven't had a show in the city for what feels like forever, and I'm feeling like a dry drunk.