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.
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→
Here are the video games I played in 2010 with mini-reviews.
New Super Mario Bros
Possibly the best four player cooperative game I have ever played. But players have to watch out for each other, or else they will end up bouncing off their team members’ heads and knocking them into pits. The difficulty curve works well, starting easy, but by the end the game is extremely difficult. 5/5
Definitely the best free/downloadable PC game I have ever played. It’s a run and jump cave exploration platformer with 16 levels, pixely graphics and catchy chip-music. The cave layout is randomly generated every time and there is a lot to discover. When you first start playing this game you’re going to die a lot, but the pleasure comes from knowing how to avoid that trap/monster/layout next time. There are a lot of powerups, weapons and useful items you can dig up, purchase or steal from cave-dwelling shop keeps. Originally made by just one guy, an X-Box Indie Arcade version of Spelunky is in the works. 5/5 Continue reading 2010 in Video Games→
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.)
Other websites and magazines have published their year-end best-of lists already, but faithful members of the Idle Time collective know that these are all just prelude to the real List.
Idle Time’s Favorite Forty has been rouletted and processed. Egos were bruised and epithets discharged. But in the end, we produced a list that we’re all pretty proud of. Before it’s officially published (although internet adventurers with more accomplished navigation abilities than any of us may be able to figure out how to see the list on our site in advance), we’d like all of you to weigh in.
These albums were all chosen by various other media outlets as the Best Album of 2010. There’s a good chance most of them also appear on our list. But which of these did you like best?
I was thinking I’d post my first blog utilizing a few of the great quotes referencing paths, roads, forks, etc. that people are to travel or have already travelled. Oh B.S.! What a cop out. I mean obviously we all go through life-facing choices and challenges, and who knows what good or bad may come of those choices. I’d like to believe it happens as it should.
I’ve been able to do many things in my years, some amounted to stacks of fun, where as others not so much. If I had to choose my favorite occupation of all time, I’d choose two. The first would be, teaching, I enjoyed the teaching gig very much, and worked with some characters (most of which are on staff with this blog). Many great memories and adventures were had. And eventually I will go back to it.
The second of my favorite jobs would most certainly be bartending, or el cantinero as our Spanish-speaking friends would say. A real funtime fulltime adventure. A job where my UC Davis Psych degree came in pretty handy, a job where I was afforded the opportunity to mix and taste a vast collection of libations. It is from this experience I will be posting.
In his second installment of This Used To Be My Playground, Uncle Isey comments on the growing pains experienced by the segue period into each new decade. 2010, despite its efforts to kickstart a new era (what’ll we end up calling this? The teens? The tens?) will undoubtedly still bear many distinctive connections to the aughts. And when not locked in this identity crisis, wavering in our future reflections as the Year Without a Decade, it’ll likely be referenced in the history books for things like a Haitian disaster, Icelandic volcano, and a Mexican Gulf tarring.
Being ever the optimist, however, I have quickly pulled together a list of things for which 2010 will be remembered quite fondly, at least in my mind. My Top 5 2010 Highlights.
5. Epic Awesomeness at The Movies
There are certain years that bear rather immediate associations with some of my favorite films. 1977, 1994, and 1998, along with whatever else was going on at the time, will always make me think of Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, and Shakespeare in Love. This year we were treated to not one, but two future classics: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Worldand Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
Comic books, video games, and rock n’ roll. The only thing that could have made Pilgrim more endearing to me personally would have been folding in baseball and staging it in Sweden. And as much as I enjoyed Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original comics, this film is truly a rare feat: a movie that might actually be better than the source material.
To get the blog ball rolling, I’m just going to repost something from last June that I uploaded to a little underground google group of the same name. This is all new territory to me, but I’ve always felt that the general public needed to be more aware of my daily musings and groundbreaking insights.
Revelations in Traffic [Now with bonus revelation and updates!]
1. A cool haircut is 90% the product of a cool face. The same goes for fashion trends. If enough attractive people start doing the same thing where the masses begin to notice, the fad will catch on regardless of the validity of the thing itself. Eventually enough unattractive people adopt the same trend until it becomes glaringly obvious how stupid it looks. So here’s to the final few months of retro neon 80s sunglasses, folks.
2. If you got rid of the tamale husk and reduced the Chicago deep dish style to a more foldable and less overpowerinig thin crust pizza in the taco town taco joke from SNL, you’d have a pretty amazing meal. If I remember, there was: a soft taco, crunchy taco, gordita, pizza, tamale, pancake, crepe, all adhered to each other with cheese, guacamole, refried beans, marinara sauce, and chili. All of those ingredients are thin enough to actually produce a viable wrap. Let’s make that wrap.
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.
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 ByThe 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→
The Institute’s comics department may receive far less attention than its audio/visual brethren, but as department chair I will continue to extol the virtues of the medium to any and all mildly interested parties. When compared alongside music and film, comics does require the most human interaction, particularly in the sharing of discoveries. If Professor Flores was particularly excited about a movie, you might add it to your Netflix queue. If Dr. Howell was adding an LP to the fourth quarter syllabus, you might download it wirelessly to your iPhone. But if I want you to read the new Chris Ware book, you’re going to have to set foot in a bookstore, or, god forbid, a comics store. The twenty-first century has not devised an effective means of disseminating or reading comics digitally. Not to say it won’t happen… but chances are, for the foreseeable future, your best bet is to borrow my copy. And maybe we’ll get coffee too.
It seems rather fitting that the finest graphic offerings of 2010 are all achievements in comics storytelling and craft. It’s hard to argue that comics can accomplish things that other media cannot, especially when comics-in-adaptation are all the rage these days. Scott Pilgrim was one of the best movies of the year; The Walking Dead is a new AMC hit; and Disney’s new Marvel properties are toy shelf gold. These five books, however, need to be appreciated in the form the artists intended.
Call it hubris; to me it’s reorganization. After posting to no fewer than six different blogsites since 2004, I’m settling in here. Isey seems to be doing the same. In the interests of maintaining a proper archival home for our ramblings, here’s a post that appeared in the original Justifications for Idleness in May of 2008. Appropriately, I’m trying to find a home.
I’m lost. I know it’s an increasingly popular sentiment in modern culture to feel at once distant and connected; the dichotomy of shrinking-planet interconnectivity and impersonal digital relationships has fractionated many an able psyche, mine included. Black Francis has been looking for twenty years now. What chance do I have?