DVD review: Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

By , November 30, 2011

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

With a Muppet resurgence upon us, it’s an excellent time to revisit this 1977 Jim Henson Christmas classic.  With its hilarious Muppet villains, great songs, and a heartwarming Gift of the Magi premise, this is bound to become a new family favorite.




Book review: Citrus County

By , November 30, 2011

Citrus County
by John Brandon

This lived up to the promise of the amazing short story by Brandon in a recent issue of The Oxford American. I’m surprised it didn’t garner more attention when it came out, especially since it got a rave review by Daniel Handler in The New York Times.  The main premise of the plot (a fantastically low-key kidnapping) is wildly unbelievable, but I loved the writing so much that I just didn’t care. It’s worth reading for the depiction of Mr. Hibma alone.

Book review: The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

By , November 28, 2011

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
by Philip K. Dick

Iconic science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, PKD to non-noobs, had a series of religious, or psychotic, or neuro-farting  episodes during months of February and March of 1974. You know: visitation from angels, pink beams, gnosis from the Lord and / or aliens. The kind of stuff you find on other side of the rainbow. Dick referred to these events as “2-3-74.” “2-3-74” informed all his novels thereafter. The theological bent of these novels divided fans, but I think they are some of his best. Those novels are only a gleaming of the thousands of pages he wrote trying to make sense of “2-3-74.” Dick called this unending (unendable?) nonfiction work as his “exegesis.” Fans called it the holy grail. Locked away for years, it has been unearthed and edited to a somewhat manageable size (800+ pages) by Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson. So now we can dig into the raw stuff. Dick’s real reactions to his mystical experiences.

This probably isn’t the best place for noobs to start but who knows maybe it is best to just dive right in the deep end. For those not interested in SF novels, I would recommend this book for the seekers, the wanderers, those that still haven’t found what they are looking for (though this text might be a cruel joke) or anyone whose knowledge of Christianity is sufficient enough to be familiar with the word Parakletos. For years critics have been saying Dick is our Dostoyevsky, our Borges, and now he can also be our Jung, our Swedenborg, our Meister Eckhart. Go non-noob yourself.

- Bryan

Book review: Gringos

By , November 23, 2011

by Charles Portis

Thank you, Wells Tower, for recommending this in GQGringos is my first Charles Portis, so I can’t compare it to his recently revived True Grit, but I would guess that it has the same main attraction: his Southern deadpan writing style. The plot is almost incidental, although it’s very funny in an absurdist sort of way.  I can see why Portis has a cult following.

Book review: Edward S. Curtis: The Women

By , November 17, 2011

Edward S. Curtis: The Women
By Christopher Cardozo

Between 1900 and 1930, American photographer Edward S. Curtis traveled from the Northwest coast, through the Rocky Mountains and down to Mexico recording and photographing more than eighty Native American tribes still “practicing the old ways.” What Curtis created was the most comprehensive record of traditional Native Americans. Edward S. Curtis: The Women is a hauntingly beautiful collection of one hundred sepia images of Native American women going about their daily lives. Curtis’ photographs are stunningly elegant portraits of a different time and place.


Book review: I Knew You’d Be Lovely

By , November 16, 2011

I Knew You’d Be Lovely: Stories
by Alethea Black

I’m starting to pull together my personal “Best of 2011″ lists, and this is my nominee for best short stories (the only other contender being You Know When the Men Are Gone). This collection movingly depicts the quest to become your true self, despite missteps, and to find someone who understands you.



Dear gentlemen with beards:

By , November 15, 2011

I’ve noticed there are a lot of you out there; letting your facial hair grow past the stubble stage to create a new look and perhaps even a new perspective on life.  I’d like to draw your attention to some famous men with beards or mustaches, as well as library materials that might be of interest…

Joseph Palmer.  Mustaches and beards have gone in and out of style during the last 50 years, but can you imagine a time in America when you would be imprisoned for refusing to shave?  Joseph Palmer  was a nineteenth century American who refused to conform to society and even went to jail for what he thought was his right  - to grow a beard that would make  those dudes in ZZ Top look like facial hair amateurs.  Read about Palmer in The Quite Contrary Man written by Patricia Rusch Hyatt, illustrated by Kathryn Brown.

Zach Galifinakis.  Zach is one of the funniest bearded stand-up comics & actors of our time, and a southern boy to boot.  You’ve probably seen The Hangover, so I recommend you watch him in the quirky HBO series Bored to Death.    And if you haven’t seen any of the online episodes of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifinakis, get ready to laugh yourself silly!

Hercule Poirot.  Agatha’s Christie’s famous Belgian detective sports a finely groomed mustache while cleverly solving the most complicated mysteries.  The widely respected English actor David Suchet has portrayed Poirot (and that mustache!) since 1989.

Justin Vernon.  For those not in the know, Justin is behind the thoughtful and melodic music of Bon Iver, and he is arguably at the forefront of the recent sensitive guys with beards movement.   If you’ve never listened to Bon Iver, start with For Emma, Forever Ago, which was recorded mostly in a remote cabin in the wilds of Wisconsin.

Joe Hill.  Joe Hill is now known as the son of Stephen King, but don’t jump to discount his skills at crafting a good tale!   Hill’s stories are as entertaining and macabe as his famous father’s (read Horns for starters.)  In 2010, Joe grew one heck of a mustache while raising money for the charity Movember, an organization that raises funds and brings awareness to men’s health issues, in particular prostate cancer.

I’ll leave you with one final quote from Marc Maron, a comic who wears what he refers to as a facial hair configuration.  The quote is taken from his latest album This Has to Be Funny – “I’m not a hipster… I’m more of  a middle-aged man who has made a facial hair decision.”                                                -crystal














Book list: LGBTQ History

By , November 14, 2011

Like many, I am anxiously awaiting the publication of Larry Kramer’s The American People: A History which is set to be released in 2012. That book is sure to be equal parts insight and controversy. Until then we can read about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people (and their allies) in this handful of critically acclaimed titles:


A Queer History of the United States
by Michael Bronski
This book considers our nation’s history through the lens of sexuality and gender from pre-1492 to present. It demonstrates that even in seemingly repressive times all people have had an integral role in shaping the cultural and political landscape. Many historical figures you’ve probably never heard of, and many facts you probably didn’t know about those you have, are presented.


A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives the Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds
by Martin Duberman
Noted historian Duberman profiles the lives of two early activists whose uncompromising lives are symbolic of the radical 1960s. Blurb alert: McReynolds was the first openly gay man to run for president. Bias alert: I don’t have a great one line blurb about Deming.


The Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade
by Justin Spring
Spring chronicles of the life Samuel Stewart, aka Phil Sparrow, as he transforms himself from college professor to Chicago South Side tattoo artist. Friends with the art elite of his day and Alfred Kinsey, Stewart’s truly unique life offers great insight into what it was like to be gay pre-Stonewall.

- Bryan

Book review: Rules of Civility

By , November 9, 2011

Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles

I dare you to resist this! It’s like a fizzy, delectable mixture of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Keith Maillard’s Gloria. It’s the most fun I’ve had reading all year (not to mention the best cover).





Book Review: Anna Wintour, the Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief

By , November 7, 2011

Front Row: Anna Wintour, the Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief

by Jerry Oppenhiemer

Coco Chanel said it first: “I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.” Heir to Chanel’s crown is Anna Wintour, the fearsome editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, dubbed ‘Nuclear Wintour’ by her enemies and the alleged inspiration for the movie The Devil Wears Prada.

Jerry Oppenheimer’s glitzy unauthorized biography paints a vivid picture of this brilliant and driven woman. The author doesn’t do a makeover of Wintour’s faults—she is indeed icy, ruthless, and often less tactful than a sledgehammer—but neither does he edit out her unmistakable gifts. As a young fashion editor working for magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, New York, Viva, and the British Harper’s & Queen, Anna Wintour displayed a keen visual aesthetic, a knack for discovering talented photographers, and the willingness to do whatever it took (including chipping in her own money) to produce gorgeous fashion layouts.

Nor is Wintour’s personal life left out; Oppenheimer traces her early years as the daughter of a prominent but troubled family to her life in the swinging London of the 1960’s to her various relationships with older, powerful men. This book will enthrall fashionistas and celebrity gossip lovers alike!

- AJ


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