News and Notes
The Selected Stories
Ten stories from the best short-story writer in America. From the comic "Aren't You Happy For Me?" to the haunting "Police Dreams," Bausch's fiction comes from places we're all familiar with--our homes, our families, the daily complications of making our way in the world. Do not miss "What Feels Like the World" and "Letter to the Lady of the House."
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Okay, here's the deal: Choderlos De Laclos wrote the book. Roger Vadim wrote and directed the movie. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers did the soundtrack. Art and the boys also appear briefly in the film as, what else, the house band in Hell. Highlights include "Miguel's Party" and "No Hay Problema."
Today's Nugget is more a heads-up than an endorsement. Blue is a glossy "lifestyle" rag dedicated to "adventure travel, cultural exploration and action sports." The content is a little flimsy, with several full-page layouts dedicated to what are essentially factoids. On the other hand, the design, illustration, and photography are compelling, if not more than a bit reminiscent of Wired. For now, the verdict on Blue is a toss-up--we'll let the upcoming website be the tie-breaker.
They say this is the greatest novel written in the 20th century. And, as it turns out, they're right. If you have trouble following this story of a single day in Dublin, then get your hands on some crib notes and plunge on in. Sure, there are several layers of meaning, but even the top-most layer is astonishingly powerful.
The Early Year
From Sub Pop comes this double-CD reissue of the Scuds' first two albums, Pine Box and Dance the Night Away. If you are unfamiliar with the quartet's low-key, acoustic (dare we say "country") style of music, then pick up the set and get ready to be converted into a fan. Highlights include "(She Took His) Picture" and Cher's classic "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."
Emerging every couple of weeks out of the woods of Wisconsin is The Onion, the funniest site on the Net. With sidesplitting news parodies such as "Terrorist Bombing Damages Bob Dole's Outer Hull," this satirical site is the breeding ground for more "You Gotta Read This" email than any other comedy outlet. It belongs on everyone's bookmark list.
Stories of Happy People
Sometimes philosophical, sometimes visceral, Gustafsson's stories are always deeply engaging. There is a magical quality to pieces like "Greatness Strikes Where It Pleases," which follows the life of a man who never fully joins society. Other highlights include "The Four Railroads of Iserlohn" and "Out of the Pain."
The Late Late Show
when Tom Snyder is on vacation
Jon Stewart was too intelligent for MTV, too hyper for syndication, but now he may have finally found his niche. When Tom Snyder takes a break from his hour-long talk show, Jon keeps his chair warm. Stew brings a hilarious brand of self-deprecation, coupled with a genuine irreverence towards guests, callers, competitors, and the world at large. But perhaps the best thing Stewart offers late night is a stark contrast to Snyder's usual somniferous self-aggrandizement.
This is the album that put glam rock on the map. And until Smashing Pumpkins showed up, T. Rex was the only location worth visiting in that neighborhood. With songs like "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" and "Jeepster," this disc has a couple of big hits, but it's the uniform brilliance of tracks like "The Motivator" and "Mambo Sun" that elevates Electric Warrior to classic status.
Let's face it, some computer games are getting a little too fancy for their own good. Last time I checked Gamespot, there was a 20-megabyte demo of the latest basketball sim. 20 megs! Well, if you can remember when a 20-meg hard drive was cutting edge, you probably also recall a little thing called the Atari 2600. And now, with the help of an Atari emulator like Stella, you can experience the powerful rush of deja vu that comes from playing old classics like Combat, Air/Sea Battle, and Breakout. Download time for these games? About 3 seconds...
Whether you're part of the corporate world or just a spectator, Fast Company is an enjoyable guidebook to the glamorous side of big business. The magazine covers the usual biz beat: emerging high-tech stories, leadership issues, quirky job titles, and much more. What separates this periodical from the pack is: depth, insightful writing, and creative graphic design.
Rock 'n' Roll Rule Number One: If you're going to name your album something like "Hot" or "Killer" or "Better Than Live From Budokan," you better have the music to back it up. Else you're going to get reviews like: "...leaves me cold..." or "...dead on arrival..." or "...where's Cheap Trick when you really need them..." Well, luckily for the Zippers, they've come through not only with a hugely popular sequel to their debut disc, but one that holds together thematically. "Hot" refers to the 20's-revival style of the band, but is equally apt in describing their favorite song topics: Hell and the devil. Don't ya just love things that work on more than one level?
The Man Who Knew Kennedy
Depending on who you ask, this book is either about sailing or about wife swapping. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. No matter who you ask, Vance Bourjaily is one of the great ones. (Not to mention the fact that he's the third most famous writer to graduate from Bowdoin College, behind Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)
Way Out West
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are perhaps the greatest comedy team of all time. Sixty years ago they starred in this feature about two out-of-towners trying to deliver the deed to a gold mine. If you think it sounds like "another fine mess," rent it and see for yourself.
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
It's hard to beat this collection of ballads. Coltrane is brilliant, as usual. On this album he steps back slightly, letting Hartman's deep-throated vocals take center stage. The duo are joined by McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. All six tracks are finely crafted, but stand-outs include "Lush Life" and "Dedicated to You."
Mainstream patron saint of the Media Nugget, EW is the magazine that you always expect to stink, but never does. When it first appeared about seven years ago, the entertainment landscape was simpler. No 500 channels, no World Wide wackiness. And while a lot of magazines are falling all over themselves to "cover" the infotainment revolution, EW has taken it all in stride. They insightfully review both multimedia and online resources, and are available on the Web as part of Time Warner's monolithic Pathfinder site.
The comparisions to Dennis Hopper are inevitable, but Owen C. Wilson is well on his way to making his own cinematic name. He stars in and co-wrote the screenplay to Bottle Rocket, a lovable caper movie that easily could have been called Reservoir Slackers. Wilson plays Dignan, a wannabe criminal who's more than a little off-center. James Caan makes a nicely unpredictable cameo as, what else, a crime boss. Lumi Cavazos is well-cast as housekeeper / love-interest, Inez.
Maybe 1995 wasn't such a hot year for music. That's okay, it's just a foggy memory now. Of course, cutting through the mediocrity like a guitar-shaped Batsignal was Electr-o-Pura, the seventh album from Yo La Tengo. The album is full of both pop delicasies ("Tom Courtenay") and driving jams ("Blue Line Swinger"). Pick it up. It's electr-o-licious.
You've seen 'em in bars, dorm lobbies, coffee shops. They're those little cards advertising clubs, concerts, raves, and assorted nightlife. Whether strewn mosaically into a corner or stacked neatly on a counter, these bite-sized billboards are usually quite compelling, even if the event isn't. Ah, but then, I guess that's the whole point...
This is Taylor's first book of poems since The Flying Change, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986.
In Another's Hands
When I came out of the hardware store
into the eight-space parking lot beside it,
a wholesaler's semi had backed into the drive
and maybe blocked me in. But maybe not.
I got in my truck and twisted to look out
toward the driver, who looked me over first,
then the space we had to work with. It could be done.
Her hand, palm up, began to close and open.
I eased the clutch, trusting only the hand
to tell me where I was. She watched the gap,
the truck rolled back, her fingers moved, then closed--
hold it!--and I stopped and shifted to pull away,
but paused and waved, wanting to hold a moment
when something, however little, worked just right.
To enjoy today's nugget, you'll need some vintage technology--a turntable. This 7" single, from Minnesota's masters of sparse-core, is a crystalline gem. The song owes a bit to Galaxie 500, although singer Alan Sparhawk's vocals are a little mellower. The b-side is "Boyfriends & Girlfriends." The label is SubPop. The weird instrument is the optigan.
Hyperviolent update to "Little Red Riding Hood." Reese Witherspoon is brilliant and, judging by her recent appearance on Later, one of the brightest, funniest actresses to come along in quite a while. This film isn't for the weak of stomach, but if you're up for a little gore, it's a fun ride.
Maybe I'm preaching to the choir with this one, but let's face it, Shockwave is very cool. If you haven't taken the time to download it, you're missing some of the best parts of the Web. And even if your browser is already "Shocked," you might want to upgrade to the latest version, since the folks at Macromedia recently reworked the Shockwave plug-in to include "Flash 2" technology, which allows you to view low- bandwidth, high-quality multimedia animations.
All the Nations Airports
Simply put, this is one helluva record. Until picking it up, I had always regarded Archers of Loaf as "a cool band that I really should check out." Now I regard them as the artists responsible for the best album of 1996. There are many, many great songs on this disc. If forced to choose one, it would have to be "Chumming the Ocean."
Win 95, Win 3.1, MS-DOS
If you're a tennis buff, you'll appreciate the realism of this simulation. But even if you don't know a "let" from an "ace," you'll succumb to the addictive playability. Download the demo, or head down to your local software store for the full version.
Willeford is probably best remembered for his Hoke Moseley novels, of which Miami Blues is the most widely known. Like that book, Cockfighter was made into a movie. Good luck finding it. The book is probably a bit easier to come by, although it's not currently in print. If you can get past the fact that it centers on a very unsavory "sport," then you'll find a story full of well-drawn characters and wicked plot twists.
Tales of Great Neck Glory
You could call it derivative, but you'd be missing the boat. Sure, Tales of Great Neck Glory pays heavy homage to bands like Wire, New Order, Pavement, and a host of others, but the thing is: it's all good. Coupled with literate lyrics, the music transcends the lifted riffs and makes a powerful statement of its own.
The Daily Show
11 p.m., Monday - Thursday
Here are 5 Questions for Daily Show host Craig Kilborn (he's "en fuego!"):
- Why do they call it "Big Sky Country?"
- "Pick and roll" or "give and go?"
- Two-parter: What's your name? Who's your daddy?
- Does Lizz Winstead smoke after a really good show?
- After Damon, who's your favorite Wayans?
The Point and Other Stories
"Now, it's a common and fond fantasy for children, and especially young boys, to nurture the idea that the strange, harsh, ridiculous, badly dressed people raising them are not their real parents, that some farcial mix-up attended the delivery, but when I was thirteen, fourteen, I liked my parents okay, and in truth it was them, my mom and dad, who seemed to be cooking up a little fantasy of their own, namely, that I was not their son."
The Velvet Underground
The banana album is more famous. This album is better. It's home to "Pale Blue Eyes," a song that has become an alt-rock standard. Basically, this record will take you apart and then put you back together again. Listen to "The Murder Mystery" with headphones on.