Sunday, April 5, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York by Matt
Monday, March 16, 2009
by George by Wesley Stace
A tale of two Georges. George Fisher during WWII and George Fisher of the 1970’s. Two boys related by family but not by blood...
Friday, March 6, 2009
Alex & Me by Irene M. Pepperberg
After trying (and failing) to write this review without bias towards Dr. Pepperberg and her work, I’ve decided to add this disclaimer at the beginning and stop trying to work against myself...
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Noir by Olivier Pauvert
An un-named protagonist wakes to find a woman mutilated and hanging from a tree. Before he can figure out why she looks vaguely familiar, the police arrive and arrest him for murder...
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Our narrator is Firmin. The thirteenth rat in this litter Flo has dropped. Being as Firmin is the runt and Flo has only twelve nipples to offer her young, our friend needs to use his wit to survive his own siblings. Nourishing himself on a steady diet of literature. First eating the pages. Soon reading the pages.
Sam Savage has created an interesting character in Firmin. Yes, he's a rat facing all of the pitfalls a rat encounters in it's short life. Scavanging for food while trying to avoid being seen by humans. But, as a result of his unexpected ability to read, this rat finds himself longing for some human qualities. Adventure, knowledge, romance...human contact.
Firmin has a generous, although, understated wit. He equates the taste of lettuce to Jane Austin. Firmin's narrative is often punctuated with book titles that fall into his mind as he describes various scenes.
This rat is also very dark. Savage's book is not a light read. This is 164 pages of character study touching on philosophy, humanity, mortality and the meaning of life through the eyes of a solitary creature longing for the world of social creatures.
As for we humans. Firmin is a bit of a cautionary tale concerning how, why and when we choose to read. With anything "addictive", when do we cross the threshold of entertainment or knowledge to escaping our everyday dull-drums. At what point should one pull there nose out of the pages of someone else's life (real or imagined) and remember to live ones own.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
"If Sesame Street is the most successful show on television, it is also the most analyzed, criticized, evaluated, debated, debunked, championed, viewed with alarm, pointed to with pride, interpreted, misinterpreted, and overinterpreted media event since William Randolph Hearst declared war on Spain:---Ron Powers, television critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, 1970 (one year into the life of "Sesame Street").
Conceived in 1965 by television producer Joan Cooney and experimental psychologist Lloyd Morrisett, and born in 1969, "Sesame Street" became an overnight success after four years of gestation.
In Street Gang, Michael Davis takes us through the entire history of "Sesame Street". From research into how children watch television and learn (short segments, "jingles", colors, animation) to the decision to have Sesame Street, itself, an inner city street, to funding, to hiring everybody both in front of and behind the cameras.
Davis includes small biographies on each of the players as they arrive on the scene. The reader gets to know "Gordon and Susan" (Matt Robinson/Roscoe Orman and Loretta Long), Jim Henson and Frank Oz, Joe Raposo and Jon Stone, and countless other professionals and entertainers who strove to make "Sesame Street" the most innovative children's program on television yet.
Street Gang also gives a bit of background on earlier children's programming..."The Howdy Doody Show", "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" and, possibly most importantly, "Captain Kangaroo".
Writers and producers (including Jon Stone) from "Captain Kangaroo" were involved in the development and production of "Sesame Street". The character of Mr. Hooper (portrayed by Will Lee) was created as homage to Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo). Although, reading through Street Gang, one would think it was actually Oscar the Grouch (brought to life by Caroll Spinney) who was meant to mirror Keeshan.
This is probably the most comprehensive book you will ever read about any television show. Yet, far from being a dry tome, author Michael Davis keeps Street Gang flowing (much like "Sesame Street", itself) with quick moving scenes, so the reader is never bogged down in the details that could easily become tiresome, such as the financial and political wranglings in creating and keeping this show on the air. Davis gives us just enough at just the right time to keep the story flowing.
If you have any doubt about whether you should read Street Gang, pick it up, read the prologue...and then enjoy the rest of the book.
Title: Street Gang
Author: Michael Davis
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
"A bad man in Africa"
"A brain as well as a body"
"A possible victim of alien abduction"
These are among the lives chronicled in The Economist Book of Obituaries.
Unlike most newspapers, where the job of obituary writer is given to rookies or "burnt out" reporters, Keith Colquhoun and Ann Wroe, of The Economist have turned this position into a job for artists, and, as a result, are highly respected journalists in their field.
As Ms Wroe explains in her introduction, obit writers in Great Britain began a bit of a rivalry in their reporting in the late 1980's with Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd of the Daily Telegraph and James Fergusson of the Independent.
No longer is the obituary a solemn rundown of how one died, who they were "survived by" and a stale report of careers and volunteerism.
The obits of The Economist are literary biographies. Rarely is the "cause of death" even mentioned in these pieces. The focus, instead, is on the over-all mark that each subject has left on the world. Be it, good or bad. But never, indifferent.
Colquhoun and Wroe have the daunting task of choosing only one subject each week to honor in the final pages of this publication. Though, they sometimes "cheat". Most creatively, in the combined obit of Robert Brooks ("Hooters") and Mickey Spillane told in the pulp narrative voice of a Mike Hammer mystery.
Another challenge to their creativity is selecting a mix of subjects. Among the 200 life stories in this book, you will find men and women from all over the globe. Politicians, artists, psychics, cooks, authors, entertainers, scientists and a parrot in addition to many, many people you've never heard of but whose lives will fascinate you.
These works are creative, honest, amusing and, yes, sometimes, opinionated.
Each entry is two pages (four columns) long, making this an excellent "bathroom reader".
However, if you should choose to read in bed, just be careful that you don't fall asleep with this book in your hands. At about 3 pounds, this is an incredibly heavy book. If it hits you in the head when your arms relax, you could be The Economists next subject...
Title: The Economist Book of Obituaries
Author: Keith Colquhoun and Ann Wroe
Publisher: Bloomberg Press