Four Books I Liked By Joe Hill, Erik Larson, Tina Fey & Roger Moore

Like any hopeful reader, I have boxes of books just waiting to be read in my garage and even a fair number waiting in the digital realm. There’s not much rhyme or reason to which ones I choose or why they take me so long to read, but I figured I’d put a few thoughts down about these four books I’ve finished in the relatively recent past including books by Joe Hill, Erik Larson, Tina Fey and Roger Moore. Continue reading Four Books I Liked By Joe Hill, Erik Larson, Tina Fey & Roger Moore

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Best Of The Best: Wayne’s World (1992)

wayne's world After recently rewatching The Matrix and remembering how incredibly huge it was for me at the time it came out, I decided to start going back and watching some of my all-time favorite movies. I’ll be sticking to the ones I haven’t written about here on UM already, because even I’m surprised at how many movies I love that I haven’t written about here on the site.

At this point you might be thinking, “You’re writing about your favorite movies and Wayne’s World is the first entry?” To which I reply, hell yes! This movie about a pair of goofy midwestern guys with their own cable access TV show who live pretty rad lives filled with rock clubs, friends, pretty girls, bands and weird characters came at just the right for me.

I was 9 when the movie came out. This was right around the time where my dad and I would see who could stay up later on Saturday’s to catch SNL, so I was already somewhat familiar with Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey). From there it wasn’t a hard sell to get me into the theaters. As it turned out, I actually went to see this movie with my grandma when I went to visit her. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I can imagine she was a mixture of confused and appalled. Still, I had a great time and soon enough added this movie and it’s 1993 sequel to my tape collection. And, of course, the soundtrack was in my 50-disc CD player.

Beyond that, this film was also a touchstone amongst my group of friends throughout grade school and high school. In fact, my two buddies Chad and Charlie dressed up as Wayne and Garth for Halloween our freshman year of high school. Heck, another friend would constantly pledge his undying love for the film’s female lead Tia Carrere. This movie was part of our DNA. It shaped us in ways that I can’t even properly explain.

Speaking of explanations, I should probably talk about the movie itself. Wayne and Garth host the cable access show Wayne’s World. Slimy 80s yuppie holdover Rob Lowe sees this and offers them a deal to take the show to a wider audience. Meanwhile, Wayne meet’s Carrere’s character Cassandra. She’s in a band that Lowe’s character Benjamin tries to sign in an effort to seduce her. Eventually, Wayne and Garth realize what’s up, get back to their roots and try to make things happen anyway. It’s kind of a “screw the man” film packed with all kinds of humor and gags that might not work for modern audiences, but sure as hell worked on me and my friends when we were kids.

While some of the humor is admittedly amateurish and sophomoric, this movie also gets into some fourth-wall breaking stuff that not only comments on this movie, but movie-making in general. This might not seem like a big deal, but to me, at the time, it helped me figure out some of the different working parts that went into making something like this.

At the end of the day, I understand that Wayne’s World fits into the category of “Great To Me” and not necessarily “Great,” but that’s the whole point of these Best Of The Best posts.

Supergroup Showcase: Paul McCartney & Nirvana

There’s nothing about any of this that should work. Paul McCartney playing with the surviving members of Nirvana (including touring guitarist, and Foo Fighter Pat Smear) and playing a full on rock and roll song? My brain tells me that should not be a thing that works and rocks. Oh, Sir Paul’s also playing a cigar box guitar (or is it a ukelele, I really have no idea)? Oh heavens no. And yet, when I first saw them perform “Cut Me Some Slack,” I was blown away.

I heard about this collaboration first for the 12/12/12 concert, but didn’t actually watch the clip until today, after seeing them blaze through the rollicking track on Saturday Night Live. i was so unbelievably pumped up after hearing this performance not only because McCartney’s singles output lately has been…not the best, but also because this felt like a viable supergroup. I don’t expect them to tour or anything — though that would be pretty incredible — but there’s potential there for a really cool record. I say let’s make it happen!

Ambitious Reading List: Born Standing Up By Steve Martin (2007)

As I’m nearing the end of this Ambitious Reading List, I find myself looking forward to the next one and have even started assembling that stack. The problem with that is that I want to burn through the four books I have left with a quickness. While I did return to Devil In The White City and am working my way through it, I started getting a little antsy and wanted some immediate gratification, so I grabbed Steve Martin’s 207 page Born Standing Up and read it in a few days. And you know what? I got exactly that.

The first time I read Crime and Punishment, I was in high school and someone in the class said they wanted to know what happened to Raskolnikov after he was SPOILER imprisoned and the teacher responded that the book would need a new title then. He went on to make the point that stories need to have a focus. Raskolnikov’s story could go on until he died, but Dostoevsky was telling the story of Crime and Punishment, not Crime and Punishment and Whatever Happens After That Until He Dies. Steve Martin took a very similar approach to Born Standing Up. This is not a complete history of the man from birth to the stage, through movies and on to his current turn as a concert banjo player, it’s just about his life and performing career up to the point when he left stand up in the late 70s/early 80s.

I appreciate that kind of focus and while I would definitely be interested in reading another biography about more of his film work and recent endeavors, this book does a great job of telling what feels like a complete tale with beginning, middle and end, something Martin says he liked to bring to every one of his performances. The only real problem I had with Laurie Lindeen’s Petal Pushers was that it didn’t feel like a complete story because she glossed over the break up of the band. I did not have similar problems with this book.

One problem I thought I would have is that I wasn’t sure how serious Martin would be. His comedy lies in the realm of the absurd, so I wasn’t quite sure. Many years ago I borrowed Leslie Nielson’s supposed autobiography The Naked Truth from the library in hopes of learning more about a comedy icon I held in great esteem only to discover a few pages in that it was all a joke, one that I wasn’t in on or expecting. Though I had heard good things about this book, I did have the nagging feeling it might not be as honest as I wanted it to be. Again, that wasn’t a problem.

Martin offers a poignant, honest, real memoir here that not only proves that anyone who works hard can have a chance at making it, but also presents show business in a very truthful light (it ain’t all great). It sounds cliche, but this book really does have it all, ti can make you laugh and cry and really think about life. It’s refreshing to see someone who achieved such huge success — at the time he was the most comedian of all time between ticket and album sales — look back on his life and give a balanced account of what he did and went through. If you’re a fan of Martin’s stand-up and films or the real life portrayal of the life of comedians expressed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, do yourself a favor and read this book.

With Born Standing Up out of the way that leave me to finish Devil In The White City and then read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and Please Kill Me which I plan on reading in that order. Devil is one of those weird books that I enjoy reading while I’m reading it, but once I put it down it’s almost like a mind wipe and I don’t want to jump right back in, a feeling that grows the longer between reading sessions. I’m dedicated to getting back into it the rest of this week and deciding once and for all if I’ll keep on with it.

Casting Internets

So behind on links again, but after a few trips, I think I’m going to be back on point (I hope).

I’ve done lots and lots of writing lately. I wrote about Nowhere Men, Point of Impact, Where Is Jake Ellis?, Star Bright and the Looking Glass, Multiple Warheads and Black Kiss II! Whew, that was a lot of writing.

Do yourself a favor and check out my pal Rickey Purdin’s new blog VHS Notebook. He watches movies, takes notes and draws, it’s a wonderful thing.

The question at the center of my pal Sean T. Collins’ review of Earth One: Batman over on TCJ is an important one that more comics need to ask: Why does this comic exist?

I don’t truly know what it means to be discriminated against or outwardly hated, but I do completely agree with this editorial by Lucas Grindley over on The Advocate when he says that homophobia is not a political issue, but one that can threaten a person and their families. People need to stop worrying about what’s going on in their neighbors’ bedrooms and start worrying about the starving, dying people all over the world.

Okay, on to less serious stuff. Everyone saw the BBC‘s latest preview of Doctor Who Series 7, right? It looks raaaaaaaaad.

I’ve been watching a ton of Olympics this week and will most likely do so next week as well. As such, I found this AP article about the decaying structures built for the Athens games to be quite interesting. What DO you do with an outdoor Olympic pool when all the people go home?

Oh man, there’s gonna be color versions of Scott Pilgrim? Oni‘s trying to get more of my money!

Flea released a digital EP of all original, weird, emotional soundscapes? Yeah, I downloaded that, now I just gotta listen to it. (Rolling Stone)

The possibilities of DreamWorks buying Classic Media are close to endless and very, very exciting. (THR)

I love reading interviews with Pat Carney from The Black Keys, like this one on Rolling Stone. I like how that dude doesn’t buy into the fame.

I’ve been slow on the uptake when it comes to Wreck-It Ralph, that is until I read this LA Times article about how the filmmakers scored rights to all those classic video game characters.

Denis Medri’s Steampunk Spider-Man characters look so cool, it would potentially get me to read something about Steampunk. (via Project: Rooftop)

Beau Smith suggests more comics have a little fun with their books. I agree their needs to be more humor in comics.Final Girl Stacie Ponder created this fantastic Casual Friday Jason Voorhees shirt. I like it very much.

Speaking of Final Girl, her next FG Film Club selection is Deadly Blessing which is great because it’s on Netflix Instant AND already in my queue. Now I just need to 1. remember, 2. find time to watch it and 3. write about it by August 13th. I CAN DO IT!

Finally, I was really saddened to hear about Tom Davis’ passing. He was such a huge part of SNL, one of the pillars of my concept of comedy. (THR)

Watching The Muppet Show

As I said in my post about the excellent film The Muppets, I missed out on most of The Muppet Show. The series started off and ended before I was born and wasn’t on in reruns that I remember as a kid. I did, however, love The Muppet Babies, but that series focused on a much smaller group of characters. Between The Muppets and Being Elmo, though my curiosity was piqued, so I moved the first disc of the first season of The Muppet Show to the top of my Netflix DVD queue and watched it with my wife and daughter last week.

The amount of creativity and humor that went into the series is mind blowing. It actually reminds me a lot of the early seasons of Saturday Night Live, which only kicked off a year before the Muppets finally made it to air in 1976. Note that SNL actually featured Jim Henson Muppets as well for the first season or two.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun with the first disc even if I didn’t recognize many of the celebrity guest hosts or the Muppets themselves. There’s just so much pure creative force coming across from Henson, Frank Oz and the rest of the gang. The sketches are funny on their own and would be even with human actors, but when you take into account the fact that these guys were literally creating these characters on the spot, giving them voices and personalities and make a show every week, that’s even more impressive. I’m inspired by that kind of creativity.

Like I said, I’m still new to The Muppet Show, but I’m excited about slowly making my way through it. I’m looking at it like any other sketch comedy show, which is an area of television that I’m looking to explore more fully outside of SNL. Should be a fun journey.

Just Finished Portlandia Season 1

Unlike The League, I found myself watching IFC’s Portlandia for a trio of very simple reasons: the show’s been all over the place recently because the second season just started or is starting soon, I like Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live and the first season is on Netflix Instant. I had no idea what the show was really about and was a bit surprised to discover it’s actually a sketch show with some recurring characters from episode to episode all set in Portland, Oregon which is apparently a pretty hipster-filled place which makes sense, but I guess I hadn’t realized all that was still around.

Armisen’s fellow star is Carrie Brownstein of the band Sleater-Kinney, which I’ve never listened to but know is well respected. Their characters included a couple named Fred and Carrie, a pair of women working in a women’s book store, a reverse gender role couple and plenty of others that pop up including a personal favorite bit where they’re in a hide and seek league. The skits are generally pretty short and are more in the absurd world of comedy, but still real world based enough to not lose site of the kernel of reality they’re trying to send up, most of which revolve around the unintended hypocrisy or ridiculousness of the hipster lifestyle.

In addition to Armisen and Brownstein, there are a good deal of special guest spots like Kyle MacLachlan as Portland’s rad mayor who keeps asking Fred and Carrie to help him do things like start a baseball team and write a city theme song. Aubrey Plaza, Selma Blair, Steve Buscemi and Jason Sudeikis also pop up and had me laughing pretty hard. There’s also a bunch of musicians who appear, many of which I admit I’m mostly ignorant of, but the best of the bunch involve Aimee Mann who is now a cleaning lady after the music industry tanked. She’s working for Fred and Carrie who alternate between geeking out around her and chastising her for her poor cleaning abilities. The sketch also involves Sarah McLachlan doing yard work. Really funny stuff.

The sketches come pretty fast and furious, so I’m being reminded of a ton of guests and skits just by looking at the Wikipedia page right now. I watched the first episode two nights ago before going to bed and then the other five episodes yesterday morning. There’s a lot going on on the show and I think I’d need another viewing or two to really absorb it all. As you’ll find with anything like this, some jokes really landed with me and others didn’t, but overall, I think I’m pretty much always on board for anything that skewers hipsters. Why is that? I actually agree with a lot of hipster ideological, but I think making such a big deal about those ideas gets on my nerves. Just do it and shut up, you know? The dumpster diving sketch really nails that aspect.

So, I definitely recommend giving the show a shot. There’s only six episodes and they’re not very long, so you can burn through them pretty quickly if you’re interested.