Friday, October 31, 2008

Tube Steak: Appointment Television

We're too far removed from an HBO schedule that was largely cannot miss. In the past (roughly) ten years, HBO brought us "The Wire", "Six Feet Under", "Carnivale", "Deadwood", "Da Ali G Show", and "Extras"--all of which were shows that I loved. They also brought "Sex and the City", "Rome" and "The Sopranos"--all of which I found personally underwhelming but were nonetheless embraced by many others ("Rome" clearly less than the other two).

There are still vestiges of the old guard, of course. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is coming back soon. "Entourage", which is merely arguably good, is currently running through a season. "Real Time with Bill Maher" is still engaging, even if they can't seem to book a Republican more than twice a month.

Really though, HBO has been firing what could kindly be categorized as blanks recently. The seeds sewn have proved to be infertile largely. Only relatively new show, "Flight of the Conchords"--which is returning in January--seems to have broken from the yolk of mediocrity that has saddled the "It's not TV" net for the past few years. Past that entry, HBO has become generally average in varying degrees.

Starting with the worst, "Little Britain USA" was so awful that I actually stopped watching part way through the first episode. Little Brother was a fan of the British version, and he, too, was unimpressed. The Little Lady shared my unenthusiastic response, and she has been very much the anglophile of late.

While I didn't see any "John from Cincinnati", it didn't seem to register with the subscribers, as is indicated by its swift cancellation.

"Big Love" was largely quite dull. When it first began airing, I watched in a timely manner, but as the story began to develop, the show began to lose its priority status as I began to lose interest with it. Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin are simply irritating (and not just in the way that their characters are written), and the political wrangling and power struggle within the polygamist Mormon sect did not manage to seize my attention in any meaningful way. I have not even bothered in trying to watch past the end of the first season, despite my long-running free DVD renting status.

New animated show, "The Life & Times of Tim" was marginally amusing but surely not enough to make me tune in to the program even though it's on every day.

"Lucky Louie" was awkward at its best points. Not in the good way. With a couple of rare moments serving as exceptions, the show was bad.

While at times engaging and emotionally intense, the experiment "In Treatment" was a little too cumbersome in that the time commitment necessary to truly watch the show was too much for the average viewer, despite its heavy replay schedule.

As for the new crown jewel of the HBO schedule, "True Blood" is too hokey and out of touch to resonate with me. Most of the actors are asked to imbue their characters with accents they don't seem able to pull off. Anna Paquin's acting ability seems to have disappeared in about 1995*. The vampire effects, which I've touched on before, are comical and not in a way that I would deem intentional. And in a BSG-way, the show seems to have grown more and more reliant on sex to draw in the viewer, as if the tawdry makes up for the fact that the storytelling is subpar. The good part about that is that at least "True Blood" is on HBO, therefore nudity is involved. So unlike BSG, which only sells the idea of sex, "True Blood" is selling sex.

*If it was ever there at all. I generally feel that child actors are cut too much slack. The simple act of not sucking somehow paints them as being good when that's simply not the case. The only child actor that I can think of that transcends this phenomenon is Rory Culkin, who I think has been extremely good in almost everything he's done, especially You Can Count on Me and Mean Creek.

Now, if you are an observant reader, you may notice that a fairly high percentage of new HBO shows have a common trait. Where HBO was at one point a network whose docket consisted of original material, they have now erred to the side of safety in the form of adapted works. The best HBO shows--"The Wire", "Carnivale", and "Six Feet Under" at its high points--were original concepts. They were stories never-before-seen in any form. They were fresh. Even delving into the history books proved an opportunity to re-form the Western in the form of the vulgar and verbose "Deadwood".

Many of the new HBO programs are adaptations. "True Blood" is based on a book series. From what I gather, much of this season's story arc is basically the first book in the series. "Little Britain USA" is an Americanized version of a British show. The upcoming "Summer Heights High" is merely a re-airing of an Australian hit show. "In Treatment" is an adaptation of an Israeli serial. Hell, "Flight of the Conchords", which is actually good, is just a show based around a stand-up routine that aired on "One Night Stand" to a warm reaction.

It seems to me that the formula that helped HBO distinguish itself from other networks has been thrown out, and they're now content to rest on their laurels. Unfortunately the product has been suffering as a result of their complacent programming.

I for one hope they can re-evaluate their erred philosophy and right the ship.

250 = Earth-Shattering News

This entry marks my 250th. It also marks a distinct point in this blog's "history" (those were McCain air-quotes), insofar as this blog's future will be shifting.

Inconsiderate Prick was initially driven largely by Royals-centric posts. Over the past few months, it became increasingly clear that I was getting two disparate kinds of traffic and was probably turning off each group with posts directed at the other. This (and a particular trade that just happened, but that I've gone in depth analyzing elsewhere) have spurred me on towards starting another blog, solely devoted to my Royals fandom. While the domain name that I wanted was taken in every form (The Royal We), I persevered and yesterday launched Royalscentricity, to much fanfare, I'm sure...

Now, for those of you who only enjoy reading my quasi-retarded Phil Collins entries or ridiculous Kenneth Lonergan inspiration posts, keep coming back here. If you are coming to this site for Royals/sports entries, then you'll have to look at my writings for Sports Grumblings and at Royalscentricity, both of which are linked to in the 'Go Here' menu to your right.

Now I have to hope I can keep my writing energy up while devoting time to writing for three different places.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rediscovering the Past: God of the '80s

Over the course of the decade in which the foundation for the person I was to become was laid, there was one man whose influence over popular culture was more widely felt than all others.

Now this man was no stranger to the world in 1980. For the ten years prior, his workmanlike devotion to precise percussion cut a swath across pop music, laying down drum tracks for such vital and varied acts as Brian Eno, Thin Lizzy, Daryl Hall, Brand X, Mike Oldfield, John Cale, and of course Genesis--which he joined initially as a replacement drummer, but eventually took the reins with Peter Gabriel's departure for a solo career only to take the band to greater heights commercially than they ever reached under Gabriel's leadership.

As Genesis became more and more successful, the necessity for the embarkation into a solo career became more and more evident. In 1981, the world's thirst for more Phil Collins was quenched with the release of Face Value, a tour de force of historic proportions. And within a year of its release "In the Air Tonight" had imprinted its signature drumline and haunting vocals on the psyche of music listeners worldwide.

As the 80s rolled on, Phil Collins rolled on. It could easily be argued that this decade was his. While acts like Guns 'N Roses entralled the record-buying public with their bad-boy antics, Phil Collins was selling a fuckload of records. Moreover, one would be hard-pressed to think of an artist that released the mass of material that Collins did while maintaining the commercial success he did for the entire duration of the decade. While Thriller sold better than any record in the decade, Michael Jackson only released two albums in the decade. Madonna didn't release an album until 1983.

Really, the only other artist whose volume of output and commercial appeal could be considered to rival Collins' 80s success was Prince. Prince put out 10 records in the decade, and wrote the music for other bands like The Time, Sheila E., and Mazerati. Collins had four solo records and five Genesis records. Each were given films to star in--Buster obviously being the less successful of the two. But Prince's ascent to superstardom really wasn't complete until 1984, when Purple Rain was released. Collins was already well-established in 1984, when his career took off on a streak of 13 straight top ten hits in the U.S. through 1992*. That is a feat of consistency that Prince could only have dreamt to acheive.

*One could argue persuasively (and Chuck Klosterman has, although with a slant) that the 1980s really didn't end until 1992, as the decade really spilled into the early 1990s with the "80s" being officially killed by Nirvana's release of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". What Nirvana's success also meant was an end to 80s style, mindset, and culture. For evidence of this phenomenon, you need look no further than "Parker Lewis Can't Lose", which saw its embrace of what was essentially late 80s style--including the titular Corin Nemec's hair--change drastically in its third season. The more I think about it, the more I should be blaming Kurt Cobain for the death of my beloved TV show...

Most importantly, though, is something else--something more incredible. Where androgyny, a driving force in rock success, helped Prince in his ascension to the pantheon of 80s idolatry, Phil Collins had no such help. His most successful record, and perhaps his most culturally relevant year were driven by an album with this record cover.

That man was selling more records than just about anybody in the decade. In an industry driven almost entirely by sex appeal, Phil Collins--the man pictured above--sold more than 100 million solo records and more than 100 million records as a member of Genesis.

Just to reiterate how his success defied all logic, here you go:

Rediscovering the Past: Steven Seagal: Visionary, Humanitarian

Upon having seen Steven Seagal's magnum opus On Deadly Ground, I have to admit my relative short-sightedness when evaluating his import.

On Deadly Ground, Seagal's directorial debut, is a poignant, nuanced look at the malevolent oil companies and their utter disregard for the global community. Having hit the theaters in 1994, this would appear to have been well ahead of its time. Within the construct of the film, Michael Caine's character, Michael Jennings, is a soulless oil tycoon whose sole purpose in life is to rape the environment for his own gains. Rather than ensure that his business is operating within the confines of generally safe standards, he orders his underlings to cut corners to expedite processes, shirking off corporate responsibility in favor of making as much money as possible while stepping over anyone in his way.

Anyone who has seen a Steven Seagal star vehicle could tell you what happens when Seagal's Forrest Taft gets in the way of what Jennings wants: arms are broken, minions' torsos are blown open, shit blows up, and arms are broken.

What the average joe may not think of is what comes after the Seagal bloodbath. Once the villains are thwarted and summarily slaughtered by the Native American Taft, he takes the stage at the Alaskan State Capital and presents a stirring case against the wanton disregard that big business (enabled by lax governmental regulation) has for the well-being of the whole of mankind. After only a few moments, one cannot help but admire Seagal for using his film as a platform to warn against the perversely reckless and wholly unnecessary pollutant and cancerous lifestyle forced upon the world by big auto and big oil with the help of a complicit government. After a few more, it becomes abundantly clear that this powerful film drove Al Gore running towards the cause of combatting global warming.

So praise be to Steven Seagal, who was on the lookout for all of our best interests way before it was cool. Do the man a solid and buy some Lightning Bolt.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sports fan?

Since I started writing for Sports Grumblings, I decided that I wanted to shift the focus of this blog a little away from the realm of sports. As the baseball season approaches, I'll tentatively be shifting my focus at Sports Grumblings to baseball, and I also plan on starting an entirely new Royals-centric blog as an outlet for my fandom at some point in the nearer future, probably as Hot Stove heats up.

All that being said, I can't help but comment on the Chiefs game today.

Shockingly, the Chiefs should have won this game.

I know, it's hard to fathom.

For their two games prior to their face-off with the Jets, the Chiefs looked like a Division 1AA school playing in the NFL. This time they'd be trotting out Tyler Thigpen who was so bad that the even keeled Joe Posnanski likened his play earlier in the season to an instance in which the Chiefs pulled a player out of the stands to play quarterback. Any Chiefs fan who happened to miss the game would be shocked to hear that seven completions into the game Tyler Thigpen--former 7th round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings who graduated from Coastal Carolina (apparently, they're a Division 1 school...)--would have a perfect passer rating. Even more astonishing was the fact that he actually continued his solid play until the end of the game, having only one truly reprehensible pass that was fortuitously not picked off.

Moreover, thanks to what should have been the Chiefs second pick-six of the game (Derrick Johnson blowing the first one with 85 yards of open field and the Favre pass hitting him in the numbers) at the 7:48 mark in the fourth quarter, the Kansas City Chiefs led the game with just 3:20 to go, facing a 3rd and 3. Any person who has ever seen a Herm Edwards team play with the lead late in the game knows what happened next. For that matter, any person who saw the first two downs of the series knew what was going to happen. Handoff. To the left. Stopped short of the first down.

If this hadn't been the second straight three-and-out for the Chiefs offense that was the result of conservative play-calling, maybe this wouldn't be an issue.

Unfortunately, late in close games, this is exactly who Herm Edwards is as a coach. He's more conservative than Sarah Palin. Rather than "play[ing] to win the game", Herm's teams have historically played not to lose, and that has cost the Jets and now it is costing the Chiefs.

And tomorrow, I'll probably be finding myself checking the Kansas City Star's website to see if Lamar Hunt has finally done the right thing and shit-canned both Peterson and Edwards.

Chiefs fans need a fresh start.

We certainly deserve it 19 years into the 5-year plan.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Apology of Sorts

The interminable struggle with Time Warner as my internet service provider has once again hindered my ability to actually access the internet. Weird. I know...

Anyway, I've not been blessed with an overabundance of time today--well, that's not entirely true, but I did get some serious television watching in today while forgetting to take care of my civic responsibility (Texas has early voting).

While watching television (well, mostly trying to clear some space on the old DVR), I did see this. Consider it a gift if you didn't see it. The gift is at the end.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Death of an Institution?

So, here we are "Degrassi" devotees. The cast of "The Next Generation"* that we grew to know and love are almost entirely gone. It was inevitable, I suppose, but that doesn't make the change any more palatable. At least not in the short-term. At this point, the situation has gotten so out of hand that characters newly introduced only two seasons ago are leaving for Kenya. And apparently Kenya is in Beverly Hills.

*It seems a bit comical to me that the relaunches of the "Degrassi" and "90210" franchises at least entertained the notion of taking on "The Next Generation" in their titles. As if the recycling of an old concept wasn't enough, they needed to also steal** from the "Star Trek" universe and slap "TNG" on there. That is patently ridiculous, despite the fact that I have rather enjoyed the re-introduction of "Degrassi" to Canadians and Americans alike.

**Speaking of stealing, is anyone else completely weirded out by the fact that "90210" is ripping off the interracial family aspect of "South of Nowhere", complete with the black son being adopted (from what I understand)? Granted, "South of Nowhere" was technically ripping "90210" off with the whole family moving from Middle America--the Walshes being from Minnesota, the Carlins moving to California from Ohio, and the Wilsons being Kansans--to the crazy world of the City of Angels, complete with newly-made friends having famous parents, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept that new "90210" is ripping off a show that's actually still on television in addition to cannibalizing its predecessor.

The episode of "Degrassi" that aired on The N Friday saw Shenae Grimes leaving unexpectedly, obviously to the far more important world of pseudo-network television. Her new role on "90210" affords her the status of starring on The CW, adding an additional letter of stature to the network-importance equation. In two more years, do not be surprised to see chain-smoking Shenae on a network with three(!) letters in its name, like NBC, ABC, CBS, or Fox.

Shenae's defection is cause for possible alarm, though. Maybe I'm getting old, but there was a day when the cast of high schoolers on "90210" were the right age: 30. This whole approach of casting youngsters like Shenae Grimes and Tristan Wilds--neither of whom are 20 years old--to play youngsters seems short-sighted. How the hell can they know what it's like to be teenagers? There is one thing of which I am certain: Aaron Fucking Spelling would never have let this happen.

Will no one honor his memory? Maybe there is hope after all...

"90210" bullshit aside, these first two episodes of the newest season of "Degrassi" have me very concerned. The prominence of the bland replacement characters has thus far produced nothing more than a tepid reaction. I like Mia well enough, I guess, but now she seems to be front-and-center, and there's only so much mileage you can get out of the sexy teen mother. Honestly, I'm not sure any of the characters that have come in to replace every original cast member can prove to be engaging enough to want to keep watching the show. I guess I have to keep watching in the hopes that Spinner decides he needs to rape Derek for kicking Jane in the ribs. And before you say, "What the fuck, dude?" just remember that this shows fucking "goes there", and I can hope it goes there.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In case you were not aware,

"Frank TV" is going to be returning to TBS.

Reading Rainbow: Chuck Klosterman IV

Continuing on until I have nothing left to read, I just finished Chuck Klosterman IV. Largely consisting of articles written elsewhere, the breadth of subject matter covered is far broader than in Fargo Rock City or Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (I've not yet read Killing Yourself to Live), but the depths plumbed in each of the others was greater. Essentially IV is Klosterman abridged. There's no problem with that, but as a collection of pop criticism it doesn't quite reach the level that the other two reach.

The first 150 pages or so consist of features he wrote on bands (mostly for Spin), and of particular note personally were the pieces on Radiohead and Jeff Tweedy. I was relieved to read that both seemed pretty damn cool outside of the music. There was also a great chapter about a ClearChannel sponsored Arena Rock cruise, featuring Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Journey, which sounds like it must have been ridiculous.

 Unfortunately, there was none of this guy...

The more I think about it, the more there was some really great shit in the book. His Esquire essays on random topics never ceased to entertain and usually served as means by which he could lay out criticism on seemingly everyone. His tragically flawed experiment to sit down and watch VH1 Classic for 24 straight hours is insanely funny. My main wish is just that there was something as tirelessly fleshed out as his analysis of the cultural significance of "Saved by the Bell" complete with The Tori Conundrum, which is asinine and shows that I'm a slave to my own expectations. I guess the bar was set pretty high there, though, and expectations can be a major distraction to what should otherwise be an very pleasurable experience, which Chuck Klosterman IV most definitely was.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On the personal news front...

I was waiting until I was officially writing on the site, but I have joined the writing staff at Sports Grumblings. Tim McCullough, managing editor of the site was kind enough to take me on based on the kind words from Damian, a fantasy rival of mine. Damian is the same fantasy rival that I eked out a win-by-tie-breaker over in my life-running (or life-ruining, as The Old Lady* would be inclined to say) keeper league.

*The Old Lady has asked why I refer to her as this, and stated that she wasn't fond of the tag. I'd refer to her as a few other things--all nice, of course--but we live in Texas with strange Common Law standards. I assure you, Jack, The Old Lady is a term of endearment.

My first article is up now. I will be writing on the Western Conference for now with the probability that I'll also be working on fantasy baseball when the time comes.

So, if you're interested, you can shortcut to my columns here. The link to both the site and my author page will be up in the links section.

I am very much looking forward to branching out and giving my all to Sports Grumblings. I would imagine that the sports-related content will virtually disappear from this blog, however, as I also have plans on starting a Royals only blog as the new season approaches.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reading Rainbow: Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

For the past few months, I have been devouring everything written by Chuck Klosterman. I am currently working on Chuck Klosterman IV, and at this point only have Killing Yourself to Live left to read. I have been reading him so obsessively that I actually went out and bought Downtown Owl, his new novel, the week it came out and read it immediately. This is the first time I have purchased a brand new book the week of its release since Pynchon's Against the Day came out (on the same day as Tom Waits's Orphans box set and the Sufjan's Songs for Christmas set, which was an expensive day). That being said, it was no sure thing that his first non-pop-culture centric writing would be a successful endeavor.

Upon having finished Downtown Owl, I can safely say that Chuck Klosterman's first official foray into the realm of fiction writing alleviates those concerns.

Perhaps my own small town background colors my opinions on the book, as the book is at its most basic level about a small midwestern town. Where most movies/books/shows fail to do justice in capturing small town life is in that they are overly reliant upon the caricaturization (sure, I probably just made up a word, but you know what I'm talking about) of small town folks. Shows like "Men in Trees" and "Gilmore Girls" frame small town life as one full of ridiculous characters with simple lives and simple wishes and, more often than not, simple minds. There are simply too many instances of shows being littered with zany half-tards who are completely out of touch with reality. And unfortunately, the instances in which creative endeavors over the past fifteen years get small town life right (and make it interesting) do not go much further than "Friday Night Lights" (murders notwithstanding) and "Northern Exposure"*. You can now include Downtown Owl in that company.

*I entertained the notion of including shows like "The Wonder Years" and "Freaks and Geeks" in this company but decided that they were not contemporary and were as much suburban life as about small town life, which is a small, but I think important difference.

Klosterman takes the widower farmer, the teen outcast, and the young teacher and breathes life into them. He fleshes them out with complexity rather than simplicity. Contrary to the way popular culture would like to portray small town America, Klosterman shows the vast array of people actually present in small towns. In his secondary characters, the reader is introduced to characters with dreams out of character with their pigeonholed place in society. The breadth of people that actually exist outside the city is alive and well in Klosterman's Owl.

And it's not just that this is an accurate portrayal of small town America. Past that Downtown Owl is a great book. Klosterman's readers would not be surprised to find that its funny and smart, but they may be surprised to find that it is also at times moving, complex, suspenseful, and tragic.

If that doesn't sound like a book you want to read, then I'm not sure what you're reading.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reading Rainbow: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

If I were to postulate a guess as to why I seem to have been preoccupied with racially focused media, I would imagine it would be because of a certain Presidential candidate who I have vocally supported since he entered the contest.

As I write this entry, I am rewatching the Costas Now special with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, as a baseball fan this is a treasure of a special. Both men are great storytellers. Both men led public lives in tumultuous times and always led with a stoic pride despite latent racism trying at many turns to keep them down. Honestly, their staying above the fray and maintaining such an admirable invulnerability to hate laid the groundwork for what Barack Obama is doing today. To say that their on-field exploits and heroic efforts in the light of such adversity helped to advance the notion of black men in power becoming more and more pallatable to a largely scared (not justifiably scared, of course, as it was obviously whites oppressing blacks and therefore the oppressed with the claim to legitimacy for the inherent fear in this relationship) white population does not seem to me to be much of a stretch of the imagination.

I also happened to have recently read The Soul of Baseball, which I wrote about here, and found Aaron and Mays' forebearer Buck O'Neill's story to have been equally moving. Without the acclaim that Aaron and Mays enjoyed--or even the opportunity to play integrated ball--Buck O'Neill proudly served as one of baseball's most loved ambassadors, with a heart far larger than anyone should reasonably have who had suffered for so long under the heavy hand of prejudice.

This brings me to a book which I finished weeks ago and have been too busy to write about for various reasons (that if things go well I'll be able to talk about shortly): Dreams from My Father*. If you've not read it, try to find the time. At the very least, you're getting an insight to the innerworkings of the mind of the hopeful next President of the United States of America as it pertains to his origins (at least through his point-of-view in 1995).

*I'm not sure if I've mentioned this--I'd guess I have--but I really hate that I cannot figure out how to underline in these posts. So, Grammarnistas, I want you to know that I am aware that book titles are supposed to be underlined.

So I now realize that it would have been best to save that parenthetical at the end of the last official paragraph because I think there's a certain importance to the fact that this book was written 13 years ago. Obama had been the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and, as a result, gained a certain degree of fame and was pursued by publishers to write a book on race relations. When published Obama was only 33 years old. The insight he shows and the willingness to so publicly explore his own insecurities regarding his identity within society exceeded his years.

And, honestly, reading the book at times made me upset.

This is a point I should clarify.

When reading this book, it becomes clear very early that Barack Obama is quite a good writer. The fact that he's such a good writer in addition to every other thing he seems to do so well makes me angry. One man should not be so good at so many things.

But I suppose that's what we should aim for in finding our leader--someone who actually excels at seemingly everything they do.

I digress.

The book is a compelling read. His growing up is integral to the narrative, but perhaps the most interesting portions are when he's serving as a community organizer. It is through the intimation of those efforts that the most affective moments for me came. Honestly, it is a bit embarrassing, but there is a moment that got me choked up where--in large part because of Obama's efforts--some disenfranchised, continually slighted low-income black South Chicagoans see what their efforts can produce and actually get something back from the system that more often than not ignores them. Maybe that's ridiculous, and my weakness resulting from my own political idealism was clouding my emotions, but I was honestly moved.

And really, that is what Obama has been doing very publicly for the past almost two years.

Maybe I am projecting my perception of Barack Obama onto the Barack Obama in the book, which could very well be a constructed facade of a lesser man. But if it is a construction, it speaks to me, and I'd much prefer the notion of a construction that speaks to me than the alternative in this election.

Back to the book, though... It's good. Read it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tragic Endings

Firstly, I feel compelled to apologize for my lackadaisical blog ethic. I was out of town (again) for the weekend. Chum Colclough got hitched, the latest in what seems to be my 475th friend to get married this year. Regardless of the never-ending nature of the train of weddings that have transpired, twas a nice wedding. Idyllic scene for the ceremony (short, sweet, and fairly secular, too--all of which are aces in my book). The reception was great, too. Kudos to Mr. and Mrs. Colclough.


Now, on the plane on the way back, the girl sitting next to me busted out her copy of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which got me to reminiscing. Well, not so much reminiscing as fuming.

First off, I should admit the following: it's been quite a few years since I read that book. The details of the book are hazy at this point. I remember a hilarious diagram relating to sliding across the floor of Dave and Toph's pad in socks. I remember laughing out loud a few times. I was pretty pleased with the reading experience.

That is until the end. Now many of you may have read the book. Maybe you understood the ending. I'm by no means a genius (I contemplated misspelling genius, there), but I generally 'get' the things I read. I don't think anyone would include Dave Eggers in an conversation with Thomas Pynchon or James Joyce or Fyodor Dostoevsky when talking about somewhat inaccessible authors, but I've read them and had a pretty good grasp on what their books meant.

So here is an open request to any of the readers of this blog, casual or rabid, who have read Dave Eggers's book. If you were able to make sense of the ending of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which is such an irritating name that I'm somewhat bothered by just having to type it twice), share its meaning here.

My take is that Eggers got to the point where he had nothing left to write that was pertinent to the story, didn't really know how to close things out, and decided that he'd just write an obtuse beach frisbee ramble that could then seem like it was really deep when it was really just a surrender to the difficulty of ending a book well.

And I'm not necessarily blaming him for not being able to end a book because I know it can't be easy. I'm also semi-sure that he's a great guy. I'd probably get along with him well if we were talking. I just think the ending was an attempt to mask an inability to finish, and I know I'm not alone because others have shared this sentiment with me (although more often than not lacking the emotional involvement that I feel on the matter).

In a semi-interesting addendum, my famous friend, Sean, has a habit of putting me on the phone with celebrities when he's at Live Wire tapings or book signings, which is what he did when he was in line at an Eggers signing. Knowing my feelings on the book, he decided that he was not going to ask Eggers my question himself, so he put me on the phone with him and I asked him whether or not the ending actually meant anything, to which he replied that I should re-read the book. I, of course, responded with the assertion that I had read the ending three or four times and that I could only conclude that the faux-metaphorical ending was a cop out for not knowing how to end the book and that if I read A Heartbreaking Work again it meant that I would not be buying the book he was peddling. He still insisted that I needed to re-read the book, which leads me to one of two possible conclusions: I'm just not that bright (totally possible), or he was bristling at being called out.

So, can anyone out there explain this ending?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Second Wind

This post will be a short departure into the realm of politics, so you are forewarned...

For much of the past few months, it has been hard to stay intently focused on the election. The drawn out democratic primaries did much to sap my energy, in that I am certain, but much of the post-primary season has found me with a waning interest. That can no longer be said.

As the debates are starting to come at a once-a-week clip and the candidates are at the stage with no middlemen filtering their message into 30 second clips, the public is finally getting to see the two tickets facing off squarely against one another. And sure, we're still subject to post-debate wrap-ups in which we're subjected to the spin zone and GOP strategists exclaiming that a routinely outmatched Palin won the debate because she didn't flounder embarrassingly (Is there any other country in the world where such mediocrity is embraced?), but the debates themselves at least allow us an uninterrupted and unbiased view at the candidates (even if CNN does have that ridiculous emotameter at the bottom of the screen...).

That being said, 538 is sating a statistical hunger I've had since fantasy baseball ended. I guess it's only fitting that Nate Silver, a Managing Partner at The Baseball Prospectus, is heading this outfit.

Everything 538 has to say seems to be encouraging for Obama backers. Things are currently looking up. Let's hope this holds.

I would like to know what the hell is going on in Minnesota. Polls are showing insane disparities in the Coleman/Franken Senatorial Race with the Star Tribune coming out with a poll today seeming to refute every other poll that's out there. I hope this poll is not somehow erroneous because--as divisive as I think Al Franken can sometimes be--I cannot stand that turncoat Norm Coleman.

Also, Minnesota is somehow a close race according to much of the polling that has been going on, and I just cannot fathom what could be happening that could turn the tide against Barack Obama in a state that has not voted for a Republican Presidential Candidate since 1972. That being said, I doubt McCain actually pulls off the upset in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

This guy's excited about politics again. Maybe it has something to do with having recently finished Dreams from My Father, post about that coming soon, seriously.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Work 'n Feces

Since I've been bogged down with lame stuff like work lately, I figured I should at least stop in and drop some goodness on you.

Gifts galore.

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