New parents Linda Mallari and Joey Santiago gave birth to this little bundle of joy earlier this year. And while a lot of people (myself included) must have picked it up on the strength of guitarist Santiago's other band, Smitten stands on it's own chubby little feet. And yes, the Morricone-on-speed guitar sound is unmistakable, and at times even the bass sounds like ... that other band (check out track 3). But with a voice both pretty and powerful, and songs that are catchy as hell, the real star here is mama Mallari.
The Complete Far Side
If you've been missing The Far Side since the brilliant one-panel strip went off the air in 1995, here's your chance to relive the magic. Of course, you'll need to hit the gym before attempting to heft either one of the two 10-pound volumes. Still, it's well worth the effort to down some Wheaties, strain a muscle, and get the chance to dive into Larson's truly perverse menagerie of dinosaurs, giant insects, cavemen, and bespectacled housewives with beehive hair-dos. Each and every one of the artist's more that 4,000 panels is lovingly reproduced, including many that are presented in color for the first time. This hardback edition is such a gorgeous set, but it's surely for the serious collector. Casual fans should definitely wait for the paperback.
Jay's Journal of Anomalies
Here Ricky Jay -- magician, actor, archivist -- leads the reader through an awe-inspiring pantheon of entertainers plucked lovingly from antiquity. This volume collects 16 issues of Jay's original Journal, each concerning a different historical example of a popular entertainer who made his/her/its living through some kind of oddity or chicanery, and each magnificently illustrated with printed artifacts from the time. We meet Monetto, the time-telling dog, as well as Signor Hervio Nano (aka Henry Leach), the "gnome fly," who was able to walk on ceilings. The flea circus, human levitation, dentist magicians -- all your favorites are here. And if they're not, judging by Jay's prodigous body of knowledge, you might just find them in his other book, Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women.
House of Sand and Fog
This adaptation of the novel by Andre Dubus III is one of those rare films that made me very angry. I'm not talking about being pissed off because I've wasted my time and money watching something completely vacuous or being let down by a movie that copped out in the end. I was angry because of the events that played out before me on the screen. How could these people let this happen?! And then I remembered that these were characters in a movie, not my neighbors or co-workers. So kudos to Dubus, Perelman, et. al. for manipulating my emotions so skillfully. You bastards!
Sundays, Fox TV
I guess now that Arrested Development, the brilliant ensemble comedy about an oddball family and their internecine warfare, has won just about every Emmy award it was nominated for (Best Comedy Series, Best Comedy Writing, Best Comedy Directing), Fox can go ahead and cancel it. During its entire first season, which comes out on DVD in a few weeks, viewers of Arrested Development were kept in a state of perpetual doubt, both that a network sitcom could actually be this funny and that the show would garner enough viewers to keep it afloat in a sea of vacuous reality stunt-programming. Happily, it looks like Fox's patience may indeed pay off. That is if the "Emmy-winning" prefix can convince more of the Everybody Loves Raymond crowd to tune in and give Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Jeffrey Tambor, and the rest of the superlative cast a try.
How do you deal with brain overload? Well, you can throw your hands up and bemoan the fact that the average person is confronted with more than 14 gazillion pieces of information every day. (An effective strategy, I'll admit.) Or, better yet, you can employ the latest hardware and software to help you manage the media avalanche. If online periodicals are your info-drug of choice, then you'll want to start mainlining content via an RSS aggregator, which is an application that lets you subscribe to many, many websites (blogs, news sites, or even the Media Nugget) and other assorted feeds (searches, weather, and personalized info like your Netflix queue). The aggregator automatically checks for updates to your subscriptions on a regular schedule (usually every few hours) and you get to enjoy the results without having to click through dozens of websites and scan for new information. If you want to ease into the world of RSS, you couldn't ask for a better introduction than Bloglines, an online aggregator that gets you up and running quickly, but also offers a ton of powerful features.
When dealing with certain recordings, you just can't help feeling that any positive comments will seem like stating the obvious. In these cases, I like to overstate the obvious. That said, London Calling is a major landmark in the geography of human history. This coming week you can kneel down and tremble in the long shadow of its 25th anniversary by purchasing the new 3-disc edition (2 CDs, 1 DVD). The second CD contains the legendarily missing "Vanilla Tapes," offering demos from the London Calling sessions, including 5 tracks that never made the final release. Of course, if you don't already own the album, you can be forgiven if you opt for the plain-vanilla version, since London Calling is a masterpiece and, as such, doesn't require any extraneous adornment.
Micah Ian Wright
You Back the Attack!
We'll Bomb Who We Want!
Former U.S. Army Ranger Television writer and animator Micah Ian Wright had a moment of clarity in 1989 after witnessing the effects of stray American bombs on a poor residential neighborhood during the invasion of Panama. The culmination of that disillusionment is this clever and chilling book of "remixed war propaganda." Forty pieces of vintage World War Two artwork with Wright's new text are accompanied by commentary from the Center for Constitutional Rights. The original posters are included, so you can see that the source for Wright's pre-Abu Ghraib "Torture Works!" poster urged 1940s factory workers to guard against industrial accidents. A foreward by Kurt Vonnegut and an introduction by Howard Zinn are also included.
How's Your News?
If you're not nervous about watching a comic documentary starring a cast of disabled reporters who hit the road to do a series of "man on the street" spots, you're a braver moviegoer than I. That said, all How's Your News? really asks for is a little bit of trust. Suspend your worries about exploitation and embarassment and you'll be rewarded with a beautiful film full of humor and not an ounce of humiliation. The reporters from Camp Jabberwocky are peculiar, persistent, and, truth be told, a lot more compelling than most of the people you'll see facing the camera on TV news shows. The DVD, which was just released by Shout Factory, has a wealth of extras, including audio commentary, the original "pilot," a segment from This American Life, and reporter Ron Simonsen's interview with his idol, Chad Everett. Also of note are the recent exploits of the How's Your News crew, who continue to pound the pavement in search of stories and have just finished covering both the Democratic and Republican conventions.
For a magazine that's about restriction (calories and fat), Cooking Light certainly comes across as a predictable source of abundance. Every month seems to bring more content than the last -- from their nutrition column and the fact-packed front section ("First Light") with pages on food, health, and fitness, to their feature sections on cooking techniques, lightening up high-calorie reader recipes, vegetarian cuisine, seasonal fare, quick meals, wines, and much, much, much more. They recently added home design and beauty sections, which, for my money, may signal the the editors are getting a little carried away. However, as long as each month Cooking Light delivers more than 100 recipes that help me eat well and watch my weight, I'll be a dedicated fan.