Tag: Recommendation

David Bowie – Considerate and Supportive Guy

Bruce Robb:
He was partying, having fun, but then during that period everybody was doing coke. It was unbelievable. He wasn’t close to the worst of the lot. I mean, I worked with Harry Nilsson for thirteen months, and that was tough. He was just doing what everybody else was doing. He was such a gentleman. He’d even pick up the trash after his sessions, which I’ve never seen another artist do, especially one of David Bowie’s stature. He would say it was his session so he should clear it up. He’d send Christmas cards every year, which looked like he’d made them himself.

Paul Smith:
… One time, a friend of mine’s eighteen-year-old son needed a suit, so he brought him into the Floral Street store. The boy tried the suit on, came out of the changing room, and looked into the big mirror we had. At the same time, the door to one of the other changing rooms opened and out walked David. “Wow, you look great!” he said to the kid. “You look really great, man!” And this boy nearly passed out, he went pale white! Nearly fainted! That was just David. He seemed to pop up everywhere.

David Bowie: The Oral History
Dylan Jones

(Excellent book. Highly recommended.)

Kurt Cobain Remembrance in the New Yorker

Kurt, being a student of rock history, knew that the story of a rock band is essentially a legend—in the sense that there’s some wiggle room in the truth as long as it serves the over-all myth. So Kurt was an unreliable narrator of his own story. That’s nothing new—it would be hard to name any rock star who wasn’t the same. It’s up to the journalist to determine what’s true and what isn’t. But sometimes journalists play along because they’re naïve, lazy, or overworked, or they want to be in on the game because it makes for sensational copy. Whatever the reason, it works to the artist’s advantage. I wasn’t rigorous about investigating Kurt’s mythologizing—for one thing, a tight deadline meant that I just didn’t have the time, and, for another, he had charmed me and I unquestioningly bought a lot of his tall tales—which turned out well for him.

The second night was a repeat of the first: me and a guy reading the book I wrote about him, in a generic little hotel room, punctuated by the rustle of paper and the occasional grunt of appreciation or soft chuckle. He told me it was illuminating to read about his entire life in chronological order. Very few people have that luxury. Sometimes he’d take a break, and we’d stand together by the window overlooking Fourth Avenue and talk, eat cookies, or look down to the street, where little gangs of homeless kids swarmed around taxis stopped at red lights, trying to wangle a few bucks out of the cabbies. During those breaks, we didn’t speak about the book—instead, we talked about people we knew in common, music we were listening to, or politics. Sometimes we’d just stare out the window at the city without saying anything at all.

My Time with Kurt Cobain
Michael Azerrad

I didn’t read the Cobain book, but I did read this one by Azerrad and recommend it:
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991

5 Best Movies of 2021

5 movies I saw this past year and recommend, blurbs via IMDB.

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Feature documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity.

Licorice Pizza

The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.

Nightmare Alley

An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.

Dune

Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.

5 Movies I Saw in 2021 that Weren’t Released in 2021

5 movies that I watched this year and recommend. Blurbs via Amazon.

My Dinner with Andre – 1981

In Louis Malle’s captivating and philosophical My Dinner with André, actor and playwright Wallace Shawn sits down with friend and theater director André Gregory at an Upper West Side restaurant, and the two proceed into an alternately whimsical and despairing confessional on love, death, money, and all the superstition in between.

The Source Family – 2013

The Source Family’s outlandish lifestyle made them the darlings of Hollywood; but their outsider ideals and spiritual leader, Father Yod, caused controversy with local authorities.

The Overnighters  – 2014

A modern-day Grapes of Wrath, award-winning documentary THE OVERNIGHTERS is a portrait of job-seekers desperately chasing the American Dream to the tiny oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota.

Bad Times at the El Royale – 2018

Several strangers meet up at a rundown Lake Tahoe hotel in 1969 for a violent and fateful night filled with wild twists and turns.

Collective – 2020

Follow a heroic team of journalists as they uncover shocking corruption in the Romanian national healthcare system. Take an up-close look as the Gazette team methodically discovers layer upon layer of unbridled fraud and criminal malfeasance.

5 Books I Read in 2021 That Weren’t Published in 2021

These were some books that I read in 21 and recommend. In no particular order and blurbs via Amazon.

Chickenhawk
Robert Mason

A true, bestselling story from the battlefield that faithfully portrays the horror, the madness, and the trauma of the Vietnam War

More than half a million copies of Chickenhawk have been sold since it was first published in 1983. Now with a new afterword by the author and photographs taken by him during the conflict, this straight-from-the-shoulder account tells the electrifying truth about the helicopter war in Vietnam. This is Robert Mason’s astounding personal story of men at war. A veteran of more than one thousand combat missions, Mason gives staggering descriptions that cut to the heart of the combat experience: the fear and belligerence, the quiet insights and raging madness, the lasting friendships and sudden death—the extreme emotions of a “chickenhawk” in constant danger.

So, Anyway
John Cleese

John Cleese’s huge comedic influence has stretched across generations; his sharp irreverent eye and the unique brand of physical comedy he perfected now seem written into comedy’s DNA. In this rollicking memoir, Cleese recalls his humble beginnings in a sleepy English town, his early comedic days at Cambridge University (with future Python partner Graham Chapman), and the founding of the landmark comedy troupe that would propel him to worldwide renown.

Cleese was just days away from graduating Cambridge and setting off on a law career when he was visited by two BBC executives, who offered him a job writing comedy for radio. That fateful moment—and a near-simultaneous offer to take his university humor revue to London’s famed West End—propelled him down a different path, cutting his teeth writing for stars like David Frost and Peter Sellers, and eventually joining the five other Pythons to pioneer a new kind of comedy that prized invention, silliness, and absurdity. Along the way, he found his first true love with the actress Connie Booth and transformed himself from a reluctant performer to a world class actor and back again.

Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed
Annabelle Gurwitch (Author), Bill Maher (Contributor), Felicity Huffman (Contributor), Bob Saget (Contributor), Robert Reich (Contributor), et al

Gurwitch’s popular Web site (www.firedbyannabellegurwitch.com) entices people to turn in their best tales of their worst firings; the cream of that crop is gathered in this star-studded collection of misery. The book is divided into chapters with titles like “The Job So Terrible You Can Only Hope to Be Fired” and “The Time You Deserved to Be Fired,” but mostly it’s just tales of horrible things happening to funny people. Gurwitch’s own piece—in which she’s canned from her role in a play written and directed by an officious Woody Allen, who told her “You look retarded”—is par for the course, with its droll humor and dash of celebrity. Comedians Bill Maher, D.L. Hughley, Bob Saget and Andy Borowitz all get in their zingers, while Illeana Douglas composes a poem that ranges from getting fired as a coat check girl (“How is it/possible to be fired hanging coats?/I have arms. I know what coats are”) to high farce with borderline psychotic filmmakers. The few noncelebrities invited to share their woes are generally less funny, though they tend to be more unpredictable, such as the ex–White House chef who provides a nice recipe for seared scallops.

The Last Face You’ll Ever See: The Culture of Death Row 
Ivan Solotaroff

In fascinating detail, Ivan Solotaroff introduces us to the men who carry out executions. Although the emphasis is on the personal lives of these men and of those they have to put to death, The Last Face You’ll Ever See also addresses some of the deeper issues of the death penalty and connects the veiled, elusive figure of the executioner to the vast majority of Americans who, since 1977, have claimed to support executions. Why do we do it? Or, more exactly, why do we want to?

The Last Face You’ll Ever See is not about the polarizing issues of the death penalty — it is a firsthand report about the culture of executions: the executioners, the death-row inmates, and everyone involved in the act. An engrossing, unsettling, and provocative book, this work will forever affect anyone who reads it.

The Last Taxi Driver
Lee Durkee

Hailed by George Saunders as “a true original—a wise and wildly talented writer,” Lee Durkee takes readers on a high-stakes cab ride through an unforgettable shift. Meet Lou—a lapsed novelist, struggling Buddhist, and UFO fan—who drives for a ramshackle taxi company that operates on the outskirts of a north Mississippi college town. With Uber moving into town and his way of life vanishing, his girlfriend moving out, and his archenemy dispatcher suddenly returning to town on the lam, Lou must finish his bedlam shift by aiding and abetting the host of criminal misfits haunting the back seat of his disintegrating Town Car. Lou is forced to decide how much he can take as a driver, and whether keeping his job is worth madness and heartbreak.

Here’s last years version of this list:
9 Books I Read in 2020 That Weren’t Published in 2020

The 5 Best Books of 2021

Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Selections mine, blurbs via Amazon.

Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood
Danny Trejo with Donal Logue

On screen, Danny Trejo the actor is a baddie who has been killed at least a hundred times. He’s been shot, stabbed, hanged, chopped up, squished by an elevator, and once, was even melted into a bloody goo. Off screen, he’s a hero beloved by recovery communities and obsessed fans alike. But the real Danny Trejo is much more complicated than the legend.

Raised in an abusive home, Danny struggled with heroin addiction and stints in some of the country’s most notorious state prisons—including San Quentin and Folsom—from an early age, before starring in such modern classics as Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, and Machete. Now, in this funny, painful, and suspenseful memoir, Danny takes us through the incredible ups and downs of his life, including meeting one of the world’s most notorious serial killers in prison and working with legends like Charles Bronson and Robert De Niro.

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City
Andrea Elliott

Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. Dasani was named after the bottled water that signaled Brooklyn’s gentrification and the shared aspirations of a divided city. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani’s childhood with the history of her family, tracing the passage of their ancestors from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, the homeless crisis in New York City has exploded amid the deepening chasm between rich and poor.

Dasani must guide her siblings through a city riddled by hunger, violence, drug addiction, homelessness, and the monitoring of child protection services. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter to protect the ones she loves. When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself?

The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown
Michael Patrick F. Smith

Like thousands of restless men left unmoored in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Michael Patrick Smith arrived in the fracking boomtown of Williston, North Dakota five years later homeless, unemployed, and desperate for a job. Renting a mattress on a dirty flophouse floor, he slept boot to beard with migrant men who came from all across America and as far away as Jamaica, Africa and the Philippines. They ate together, drank together, argued like crows and searched for jobs they couldn’t get back home. Smith’s goal was to find the hardest work he could do–to find out if he could do it. He hired on in the oil patch where he toiled fourteen hour shifts from summer’s 100 degree dog days to deep into winter’s bracing whiteouts, all the while wrestling with the demons of a turbulent past, his broken relationships with women, and the haunted memories of a family riven by violence.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel
Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited first work of fiction—at once hilarious, delicious and brutal—is the always surprising, sometimes shocking, novelization of his Academy Award winning film.

RICK DALTON—Once he had his own TV series, but now Rick’s a washed-up villain-of-the week drowning his sorrows in whiskey sours. Will a phone call from Rome save his fate or seal it?

CLIFF BOOTH—Rick’s stunt double, and the most infamous man on any movie set because he’s the only one there who might have got away with murder. . . .

SHARON TATE—She left Texas to chase a movie-star dream, and found it. Sharon’s salad days are now spent on Cielo Drive, high in the Hollywood Hills.

CHARLES MANSON—The ex-con’s got a bunch of zonked-out hippies thinking he’s their spiritual leader, but he’d trade it all to be a rock ‘n’ roll star.

Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency
Michael Wolff

Politics has given us some shocking and confounding moments but none have come close to the careening final days of Donald Trump’s presidency: the surreal stage management of his re-election campaign, his audacious election challenge, the harrowing mayhem of the storming of the Capitol and the buffoonery of the second impeachment trial. But what was really going on in the inner sanctum of the White House during these calamitous events? What did the president and his dwindling cadre of loyalists actually believe? And what were they planning?

See also the Best Books of 2020

Black History Month – 10 Books by African Americans

Just some books I liked and think you will too. Selections mine, blurbs via Amazon. 

Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul
James McBride
Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown embodied the contradictions of American life: He was an unsettling symbol of the tensions between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. After receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth, James McBride goes in search of the “real” James Brown. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history, illuminating not only our understanding of the immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated Godfather of Soul, but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s enduring legacy.

How I Learned What I Learned
August Wilson
From Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson comes a one-man show that chronicles his life as a Black artist in the Hill District in Pittsburgh. From stories about his first jobs to his first loves and his experiences with racism, Wilson recounts his life from his roots to the completion of The American Century Cycle. How I Learned What I Learned gives an inside look into one of the most celebrated playwriting voices of the twentieth century.

The Big Sea: An Autobiography
Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, born in 1902, came of age early in the 1920s. In The Big Sea he recounts those memorable years in the two great playgrounds of the decade–Harlem and Paris. In Paris he was a cook and waiter in nightclubs. He knew the musicians and dancers, the drunks and dope fiends. In Harlem he was a rising young poet–at the center of the “Harlem Renaissance.”

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Rock This!
Chris Rock
From today’s hottest stand-up comic–heir to Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy and known for his Emmy Award-winning HBO Specials and The Chris Rock Show–comes this edgy, no-holds-barred humor book about race, relationships, and politics.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Z.Z. Packer
Her impressive range and talent are abundantly evident: Packer dazzles with her command of language, surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on the periphery, unsure of where they belong. We meet a Brownie troop of black girls who are confronted with a troop of white girls; a young man who goes with his father to the Million Man March and must decide where his allegiance lies; an international group of drifters in Japan, who are starving, unable to find work; a girl in a Baltimore ghetto who has dreams of the larger world she has seen only on the screens in the television store nearby, where the Lithuanian shopkeeper holds out hope for attaining his own American Dream.

Waiting to Exhale
Terry McMillan
When the men in their lives prove less than reliable, Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria, and Robin find new strength through a rare and enlightening friendship as they struggle to regain stability and an identity they don’t have to share with anyone. Because for the first time in a long time, their dreams are finally OFF hold….

I, Tina: My Life Story
Tina Turner
A reissue of the one of the most fascinating and dramatic true stories in show business history—the massive bestseller I, Tina, in which the legendary Tina Turner tells all about her life and career: from her humble beginnings in Nut Bush, TN; to her turbulent and volatile marriage to Ike Turner; and, finally, to her triumphant return and massive success.

Colored People: A Memoir
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
In a coming-of-age story as enchantingly vivid and ribald as anything Mark Twain or Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., recounts his childhood in the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s and ushers readers into a gossip, of lye-and-mashed-potato “processes,” and of slyly stubborn resistance to the indignities of segregation.

Pym: A Novel
Mat Johnson
Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes has just made a startling discovery: the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that confirms the reality of Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Determined to seek out Tsalal, the remote island of pure and utter blackness that Poe describes, Jaynes convenes an all-black crew of six to follow Pym’s trail to the South Pole, armed with little but the firsthand account from which Poe derived his seafaring tale, a bag of bones, and a stash of Little Debbie snack cakes. Thus begins an epic journey by an unlikely band of adventurers under the permafrost of Antarctica, beneath the surface of American history, and behind one of literature’s great mysteries.

 

9 Books I Read in 2020 That Weren’t Published in 2020

The following are recommended, in no particular order. Selections mine, blurbs via Amazon.

Hamlet
William Shakespeare (audio book)
Shakespeare’s most famous play is one of the greatest stories in the literature of the world.

Distressed by his father’s death and his mother’s over-hasty remarriage, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is faced by a specter from beyond the grave bearing a grim message of murder and revenge. The young prince is driven to the edge of madness by his struggle to understand the situation he finds himself in and to do his duty. Many others, including Hamlet’s beloved, the innocent Ophelia, are swept up in his tragedy.

Hamlet is played by Simon Russell Beale. Imogen Stubbs plays Ophelia, Jane Lapotaire is Gertrude, and Bob Peck is Claudius. Polonius is played by Norman Rodway.

It’s the cast that makes this an exceptional Hamlet.

A Cab at the Door
V.S. Pritchett
A Cab at the Door, originally published in 1968, recalls his childhood in turn-of-the-century and World War I London with the urbane subtlety and wry humor that have marked his other works. For the wild and eccentric Pritchett family, life is a series of cabs waiting at the door to transport them to a succession of ten-bob-a-week lodgings, in their flight from creditors and the financial disasters of their father. A Cab at the Door also captures the texture and color of the working-class side of Edwardian England.

10% Happier – How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works
Dan Harris
Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable. Now revised with new material.

After having a nationally televised panic attack, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hypercompetitive business, but had also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.

Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction
Elizabeth Vargas
From the moment she uttered the brave and honest words, “I am an alcoholic,” to interviewer George Stephanopoulos, Elizabeth Vargas began writing her story, as her experiences were still raw. Now, in Between Breaths, Vargas discusses her accounts of growing up with anxiety–which began suddenly at the age of six when her father served in Vietnam–and how she dealt with this anxiety as she came of age, eventually turning to alcohol for a release from her painful reality. The now-A&E Network reporter reveals how she found herself living in denial about the extent of her addiction, and how she kept her dependency a secret for so long. She addresses her time in rehab, her first year of sobriety, and the guilt she felt as a working mother who could never find the right balance between a career and parenting. Honest and hopeful, Between Breaths is an inspiring read. Winner of the Books for a Better Life Award in the First Book category Instant New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin’s forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn’s stature as “a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy” — Harrison Salisbury

Ravelstein
Saul Bellow
Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein’s own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies

Water by the Spoonful
Quiara Alegría Hudes
“How many plays make us long for grace? Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Hudes is such a rare play; it is a yearning, funny, deeply sad and deeply lyrical piece, a worthy companion to Hudes’s Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue. The play infects us with the urge to find connection within our families and communities and remains with us long after we’ve left the theater.” – Paula Vogel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of How I Learned to Drive

Writing to Learn: How to Write – and Think – Clearly About Any Subject at All
William Zinsser
Using numerous examples of clear, stylish writing from a broad range of disciplines, and adding the warmth of his personal experiences, Zinsser makes a strong case for his claim that writing about a field of knowledge is the best way to immerse oneself in it and to make it one’s own. Three guiding principles emerge accuracy, brevity, and clarity and, Zinsser argues, writers who keep them in mind will avoid much of the misunderstanding that results from bad writing. Zinnser has particularly harsh words for what he calls “corporation-speak,” the incomprehensible nonsense that invades many professional publications. His reference, whose title so accurately sums up its philosophy, should become a standard for those who care about good writing.

Our Country’s Good
Timberlake Wertenbaker
Australia 1789. A young married lieutenant is directing rehearsals of the first play ever to be staged in that country. With only two copies of the text, a cast of convicts, and one leading lady who may be about to be hanged, conditions are hardly ideal…Winner of the Laurence Olivier Play of the Year Award in 1988, and many other major awards, Our Country’s Good premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1988 and opened on Broadway in 1991. ‘Rarely has the redemptive, transcendental power of theatre been argued with such eloquence and passion.’