Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tristram Shandy review



The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Oxford World's Classics) by Laurence Sterne

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

A forerunner to metareality and postmodernism

Lawrence Sterne's sprawling "Shandy" is a fun, difficult read I enjoyed most when I took the time to digest it in 50-60 page chunks. Sterne's meandering style, with no sense of plot, and digression upon digression, can be frustrating to those looking for a story or any sense of a straight narrative. But for those who love word play, or, like me, grew up reading Mad Magazine and other satire; or anyone with a degree in Latin or philosophy, or even if you're a frustrated writer stifled over care to the craft, "Shandy" is the book for you.

It's crazy fun -- missing pages, the infamous marbled page, black pages, drawings of pointing fingers, digression after digression on such diverse topics as armaments, noses, and fasting, and one of the most self-conscious, self-referential narrative voices in all of fiction.

Literary critics point to Shandy as one of the first examples of postmodernist writing. Sterne presages the modern tendency towards meta-fiction, that blurry limbo between fact and fiction. The controversy over "A Million Little Pieces," reality television, the movies "Adaption" and "American Splendor," along with the stream-of-consciousness style of Kerouac and the Beat Movement -- any work where the creator's ego/persona interjects into the narrative -- owes a creative debt to Tristram Shandy.

I saw the movie and decided to read the book to make sense of it all. Of course, the book was no help. Sense has no place in the "Shandean" universe. The intrepid reader should just roll with it, laugh at the absurdities and highlight in pencil the little nuggets of wisdom contained herein.

Freakonomics review






Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. LevittEdition

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Effusive and engaging, but light on substance, May 23, 2006


"Freakonomics" poses some interesting ideas, like the fall in crime in the 1990s can be attributed to legalized abortion. And even though I'm no economist, I longed for a greater explanation as to how they came to these conclusions.

The authors did not want to bog down readers with the numbers behind their conclusions. But they dumbed down their explanations too much. And the excerpts from the New York Times Magazine article between chapters merely reminds me that this book is just an expansion of that article, and not much of one at that.

Still, I enjoyed the stories of Winner and Loser, two oddly named brothers, explanations of regression analysis and correlation, the chapter about parenting, which tips the nature vs. nurture debate strongly in favor of nature, and how conventional wisdom comes about.

Stephen Levitt is an engaging thinker. And the ideas presented in "Freakonomics" are good food for thought and cocktail party conversation. The book is like Chinese food -- tasty and filling in the short term, but not lasting. It left me longing for more. In no way did I get a glimpse of the hidden side of "everything."

Night of the Living reviews

I try to write a review of every book I read and movie I see, and of every interesting album I listen to for Amazon.com. It's a lofty goal, but a worthy one, for it provides an outlet for me to reflect on my entertainment consumer choices.


Fury VHS ~ Kirk Douglas

Beautiful film, schlocky plot, May 23, 2006

"Fury" is something of a sequel for director Brian DePalma to the critical and box office success he enjoyed with "Carrie."

Plot is inconsequential. I could make no sense of it. A man's son falls into the hands of an unexplained secret government agency who wants to use the son's psychokinetic powers for purposes not explicated. The father finds another psychic to help find his son, and she too becomes wanted by this secret agency.

Kirk Douglas proves he's a middle-aged stud doing his own stunts on an Israeli beach and the streets of Chicago. Amy Irving displays a narrow acting range-- from confused, hurt and withdrawn to surprised rage at the end. The best scenes show her in "psychic" mode. She stands, looking around, as if in an Imax theater, at events from the past scroll around her. This is vintage DePalma, the king of the camera angle.

The ending is campy horror schlock, and seen from every possible angle imaginable. This movie had potential to be so much more. Wooden acting, cheesy dialogue and a murky plot ruin a beautifully-filmed movie.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"The Bridge" review


The Bridge~ Sonny Rollins

"Bridge" an essential album of a jazz icon

Reviewer:
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews

I first discovered this album a couple weeks ago and cannot get it out of my head. The liner notes indicate "The Bridge" was recorded after Rollins took a self-imposed three year break from music. He used his time well.

The streets of New York City seem to ring out in the overtones. Jim Hall provides a subtle, though haunting guitar accompaniment. This music conjures a sweaty night on a brownstone stoop, neighborhood boys playing a game of pick-up on a halogen-lit court, concrete and brick all around, steam from a sewer pipe, and a lonely saxophone heard over the din of traffic and life.

According to George Avakian's liner notes, the inspiration for the album's title supposedly comes from a story by Ralph Berton in the July 1961 issue of "Metronome" about a jazz fan who hears the sound of a saxophone on the Brooklyn Bridge. During his hiatus, Rollins didn't live far from it. The rhythms of the street, the rolling Hudson River, come through in the music.

The album I have is a 1968 RCA re-issue (APL1-0859) and has an image of a blue-lit Rollins playing super-imposed over a blue-lit image of the Brooklyn Bridge. The back cover has a black and white photo of Rollins, sidelit, his face barely shown, but lines and keys of his saxophone in vivid detail. This album looks nearly as good as it sounds.

[Note: The photo that accompanies this review is from the original release of "The Bridge," April 1962.]

Wanna be gone...

Two songs' lyrics just about capture my current state of affairs.

"To Be Gone"

By Anna Ternheim

Leave the body leave the mind
Leave the body leave the mind

Every promise every place behind
I just happen to feel so alone
For today for all days to come
I just wanna be wanna be gone
I just wanna be wanna be gone

Leave the quiet leave the night
Leave the quiet leave the night
Broken feelings of dreams out of sight

Pictures in your head at night
For tonight for all nights to come
Erased for good and always gone
Erased for good and always gone

Leave the city leave the cold
Leave the city leave the cold
Young people far too old

Let me cross a very fine line
For today for a lifetime
For today for a lifetime

Leave the body leave the mind
Let me
Leave the body leave the mind
Every promise every place behind

I just happen to feel so alone
For today for all days to come
For today for all days to come
I just wanna be wanna be gone

"Over My Head (Cable Car)"

By The Fray

I never knew
I never knew that everything was falling through
That everyone I knew was waiting on a cue
To turn and run when all I needed was the trut

hBut that's how it's got to be
It's coming down to nothing more than apathy
I'd rather run the other way than stay and see
The smoke and who's still standing when it clears

Everyone knows I'm in Over my head
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She's on your mind
She's on your mind

Let's rearrange
I wish you were a stranger I could disengage
Say that we agree and then never change
Soften a bit until we all just get along

But that's disregard
Find another friend and you discard
As you lose the argument in a cable car
Hanging above as the canyon comes between

Everyone knows I'm in Over my head
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She's on your mind
She's on your mind

Everyone knows I'm in Over my head
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She's on your mind
She's on your mind

And suddenly I become a part of your past
I'm becoming the part that don't last
I'm losing you and its effortless
Without a sound we lose sight of the ground

In the throw around
Never thought that you wanted to bring it down
I won't let it go down till we torch it ourselves

Everyone knows I'm in Over my head
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She's on your mind
She's on your mind

Everyone knows I'm in Over my head
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She's on your mind
She's on your mind

"Moneyball" review


Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
by Michael Lewis

Of sabermetrics and pudgy catchers, May 15, 2006
Reviewer:
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews "Moneyball" is an inside look into the mind and habits of Billy Beane, the general manager of the small market Oakland A's. Faced with the daunting project of building a roster on peanuts, Beane turns to the statistical analysis of Bill James, an outsider to baseball, a fan, a former bean factory employee. James now works for the Boston Red Sox.

This is a book about baseball statistics. But it is not boring because Lewis profiles the players behind the numbers, like Chad Bradford, a terminally shy pitcher with a knuckle-scraping-ground underhand delivery, and Scott Hatteberg, the catcher with a bad arm who thought his playing days were over, only to be resurrected as a first baseman because Beane saw something valuable in Hatteberg's on-base percentage and ability to work the count (Hatteberg's lifetime batting average and power, stats most scouts consider essential, are nothing special).

Jeremy Brown, the pudgy, overweight catcher (5'10'', 210)profiled in "Moneyball," made his major league debut May 9, but has yet to appear in a game."

Moneyball" is a fun, brisk read. It gives a human faces to the baseball cattle market even as it portends the rise of the Harvard grads with their laptops.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Album review: Flora Purim "500 Miles High"


500 Miles High~ Flora

Jazz fusion vocalist at her peak, May 13, 2006
Reviewer:
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews

I checked out the actual LP of this record because I'd heard Purim's vocals on one of all-time favorite fusion discs, Chick Corea's Return to Forever. 500 Miles High is a Corea track from his Return to Forever line-up's Light as a Feather double-album, which also features Airto and Purim.

So, call this Brazil via Corea, and throw in Brazilian soft pop crooner Milton Nascimento on one track, "Cravo e Canela" (Cinnamon and Cloves)." I remember Nascimento from the CD that introduced me to Tropicalia and Brazilian music in general, the David Byrne-compiled Brazil Classics: Vol. 1.

Purim is a bit of an acquired taste. I think she sounds a bit screechy in that early 70s kitschy sort of way, but she employs it well on this album, able to scat jive with the driving Latin rhythm, her voice a complement to the groove, especially on the roasting last track, "Jive Talk."

I love live albums, especially live fusion, and even more if it's Brazilian and from the early 70s. Purim's "500 Miles High" fits the bill. It also benefits from a highly percussive sound and the use of berimbaus, a uniquely Brazilian instrument (it looks like a bow and arrow) used in the Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeira.

Jeff Spiccoli, fighter pilot

Check out this link to cockpit video of an American F-16 pilot targetting a group of Iraqi civilians.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/july2004/190704liberationvideo.htm F16 : "I got numerous individuals on the road. Do you want me to take those out?"

Reply: "Take ‘em out"


F16 : "Aw, dude"

Interesting how language affects people's sense of responsibility. The pilot did not call the people on the ground "them," but "those." These are not individuals, souls, lives, but "those." Targets. Nothing else.

My friend Mark, who served a year in Iraq, turned me onto this video. This is just one of many atrocities committed in the name of freedom. History will regard George the younger as a war president. But not so much for his nebulous war on terror, which is as winnable as the war on drugs, but for Bush's war on freedom and human rights. Images of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib overshadow those of a confident president standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Our foreign policy is far removed from our national identity, but Americans don't care because the atrocities are committed out there, somewhere, to people we don't know and could care less existed. Bush just better get gas back to under $3 a gallon or there'll be hell to pay!!!