Comic books and video games are all very well, but those of us who aren’t terrified of aging — desperately clinging to our skinny jeans, cool scarves, bedhead and taste for juvenalia beyond all propriety and decorum — may want something with a little more heft. So here’s some non-picture books for your consideration. (Full disclosure: There’s usually a little section of pictures in the middle.) Pipe and slippers optional, but recommended.
BOOK OF THE YEAR for 2010:
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
Unlike the last noteworthy Washington bio, Joseph J. Ellis
‘ brief 2004 His Excellency
, Chernow’s work is not a cover-the-basics summary for the casual reader. (Not a criticism. That was the book’s purpose.) Chernow delves into amazingly rich detail, while never losing his grip on the forward momentum of the narrative flow. Interested in Washington’s famous dentures? Chernow provides lengthy paragraphs on not only the materials used in their construction (not wood, you simpletons), but how they affected Washington’s appearance and interactions, and deep background on his relationship with his dentists. (Washington was very ashamed of his dental deficiencies, and the letters to his dentists are in kind of a code language, to spare him embarrassment if his correspondence was ever made public.)
Continue reading 2010 in Books, Part 1
Having a car meant a number of things, not least of which was not having to bum rides off of Kevin Sevier and his vintage Volvo. Kevin had scored his license during the last quarter of sophomore year, and when he grudgingly granted my request for a daily lift (round-trip), I knew my royal blue Schwinn Neu Citi (“The Ford Edsel of Schwinn 10-Speeds”) was retired forever.
It wasn’t a free ride, by any means. I paid every day in ritual humiliation as Kevin and fellow passenger Rob Lind would slowly approach where I stood outside my parents’ glorified apartment (“townhouse”) then quickly accelerate, forcing me to trot after them, until I got just close enough to reach the back door, at which point the acceleration was repeated, to the delight of all except Your Humble Narrator. If Kevin and Rob got a really early start, they would park the Volvo a block or so away, and crawl into the dense shrubbery that surrounded my domicile, make a few Monty Python-esque yelps of “Ni!” or “Meep!” then dash back to the car with me in hot pursuit. Every so often, they would call my answering machine and fill it with chants of “we hate your speed bumps, we hate your speed bumps, we hate your speed bumps, God, they suck.” (Yes, the interior driveways of my townhouse facility were practically corrugated with speed bumps.)
But I took it. Because all that was still better than riding my bike to school. And I knew my license was coming soon. Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 3: Cruising With Mushroom Girl
The line marking the cultural beginning and end of a decade is a fuzzy one. Any one who doubts 1980 was still part of the 70’s can just take a look at a 1980 JC Penney’s catalog and marvel at the width of the bell-bottoms, or look at a list of the top-selling 1980 songs and count up the disco tracks. Anyone who doubts 1990 was still in the clammy grasp of the 80’s need only look at the Yuba City High School 1990 yearbook, and observe the enormous Vuarnet sunglasses, Reeboks, and feathered hair.
#9. “Vogue” – Madonna
#10. “Blaze Of Glory” – Jon Bon Jovi
In piecing together the smoking ruins of my ego after the First Breakup, I realized I had to expand my social circle. Mr. Tackmier’s Geography C class seemed like a good place to start. I became friends with guys like Jeff Wong, Kevin Sevier, and Bret Kriezenbeck. Through Anthony Warthan in math class, I met up with guys like Jeff Olson, Eric Lansdon, and Pawen Dhokal.
On the last day of school freshman year, I went to see Dick Tracy with Jeff Wong, which featured lots of Madonna songs, but not this one. It came from the album I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy. How Warren Beatty’s brutal evisceration of the Dick Tracy character with his engorged ego inspired a treatise on dance moves from gay discos is anyone’s guess, but I’m Breathless kicked off a trend of “inspired by” albums where artists loosely associated with a movie’s soundtrack could unload their B-sides and outtakes. (The Madonna video hit around the same time, featuring our pal Madoo in a see-through shirt that wasn’t quite see-through, though not for lack of trying on my part. A Holy Bee Tip of the Hat to the original queen of titillation.)
That summer, Wong and I rode our bikes out to Movies 8 to see Young Guns II, which is better than the original (and if that isn’t damning with faint praise, then I don’t know what is.) The accompanying Jon Bon Jovi (solo) music video serves as a reminder that they used to drop some serious fuckin’ coin on music videos. Jon strummed his acoustic and mouthed his watered-down remake of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” on a massive, detailed set built on the edge of a cliff, and was photographed with more swooping helicopter shots than you can shake a stick at. Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 2: Touching Yourself in a Blaze of Glory
My long-running Blogspot series on my memories of life and music in the 1990’s will also begin running here. Here’s the first part, originally posted in April 2009:
Hey, folks, does anything suck more than Baby Boomers talking about the 60’s? Did you, like me, watch that Just For Men “Summer Of Life” commercial and wish a lingering death from some kind of impacted anal fissures on the fifty-something douche pretending to play guitar while some blonde thirty-something douchette pretends to be attracted to him through gritted teeth while visions of her Just For Men commercial paycheck dance in her empty little head? Maybe Generation X-ers talking about the 90’s is just a tad more irritating and pointless – but that’s not going to stop me. I’m going to walk you through 300 of the best, worst, and/or most memorable tracks from 1990 through 1999.
Inspired by our Idle Time Decades project, I spent my 2009 spring break painstakingly compiling a 300-song 1990’s iTunes playlist, cued specifically to my own recollections. To quote the Jack Rabbit Slim’s slogan, it’s “The Next Best Thing To A Time Machine” (and if you don’t know what Jack Rabbit Slim’s is, turn in your 90’s card.) Listening to this playlist is akin to spinning the dial on the best Top 40 radio station of that decade. (Ironically, the 90’s marked the death of true Top 40 radio.) The 1990’s saw me going from a scrawny, gawky, 15-year-old high school freshman to a chubbier, only slightly less gawky, 25-year-old college graduate, father, and (soon-to-be-ex) husband. And of course, all of this growth and drama had a soundtrack.
Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 1: She’s My Cherry Pie
Check 1-2-3. Is this thing on?
Isey here, and here we go again. I’ve penned more introductions to Idle Time/Holy Bee-oriented websites than I’ve had hot breakfasts. Take a look around the internet…
…that’s long enough, you pervert. What do you see, besides lots and lots of porn? That’s right, desiccated corpses of message boards. Empty husks of blogs, with the last update dating from 2006. These sad reminders of how easy it is to start– and then forget– a web project litter the landscape like Fago bottles after an ICP concert. The Institute of Idle Time was almost one of them. The IT Google Group turned into Frisbee golf circle-jerk, which drove everything of substance away, and the “official” website also dwindled into obsolescence, like an old GeoCities X-Files fan page from 1998. (There was a sad lack of hot Gillian Anderson .jpegs on the IT website, though.)
However, I’m pleased to report that the venerable Institute of Idle Time has a new web presence here at WordPress, where we will provide enough music reviews and pop-culture piffle to choke a horse (if that’s your idea of a good time) until everyone loses interest again in about four to five months.
Continue reading Meet the Holy Bee