Friday Fives – bookish edition

msp-m2

 How many of you still read books for entertainment?

I do still read, constantly.  However, I just can’t find time to read a book. I still consume books… daily.  These days, I do it all through audiobooks.  I prattle on about that here.  I read something a few years ago that always sticks with me.  The average American household has less than 5 books in it, and one of those is the bible.

What is that one book you just could NOT put down while you were reading it?

Kathy Griffin’s ‘Official Book Club Selection’.  Also gotta mention Springsteen’s autobiography.  Not just a page turner, but incredibly well written.

Btw, I don’t really read books for ‘entertainment’.  More for relaxation.

What book are you currently reading listening to?

Waging Heavy Peace – Neil Young

What book absolutely blew your mind?

 Lamb – the Gospel of Christ according to Biff, his childhood pal.  This book just blew my mind.  So incredibly super really great.  Mind you, I am not just un-religious… but pretty militantly anti-religion.  I was raised Catholic, though. I would also like to tell you about a near ‘religious experience’ I had with this book.  I was alone in a car for many hours on Christmas day reading it (just by chance) on zero sleep for several days.

This book also turned me on to the amazingness that is author Christopher Moore.  Since this book, I have gone on to read many of his.  Again, I prattle on and on about my love for this guy on my books page.  Just hope over here and do a control F on his name.

and….

Probably how well written that Springsteen book was.  You see how he is the voice of a generation.  I can barely think of my favorite writers who write that well.  He spend 7 years on it, and used no ghostwriter.  No ghostwriter is INCREDIBLE.   All rock memoirs are written with ghostwriters, usually the very impressive Anthony Bozza.  Rock stars don’t generally have the time or attention span or literary capability to do that.  The ghostwriter thing is perfect.  A dude hangs out with you for about a year.  He asks you pointed questions, and you tell him anecdotes.  They put it together for you.  Not the Boss.

Generally speaking, every famous person who has written a book uses a ghostwriter.

If you died today and the last text you received was written on your tomb stone, what would it say?

mostly done

 

 

ew… that is actually pretty perfect.  and… kinda creepy out of context of the conversation  Props to the Arizona Monkey Boy for that gem!  In case you don’t remember, we kinda made the Az Monkey Boy famous here.  As a bonus, we have his answers to this week’s five right below.

*** can I point something significant out here?  I just realized I went through an ENTIRE post about books (not my questions, either.  all from my editor) and I never once mentioned Alice in Wonderland.  That is a breakthrough!

Friday Fives – more about the Tap

bca1c21b72030bf297eb56d5421e7494

Your favorite book?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  You know that already, though.  Let’s mix it up, then, and say ‘Lamb: the gospel of christ according to his best friend Biff’.  I really, really like this new author.  Well… new to me.

Your favorite movie?

Big Fish.  Re-reading over this, before I hit ‘publish’, maybe I should have said ‘Spinal Tap’.  There is a 2 page diatribe down there on how great the film is, how great the actors are, and how incredible it is that they wrote and scored and improvised the film.  But… you know that movie.  You may not know ‘Big Fish’.  It is perfect storytelling.  The cinematography is stunning.  Can you imagine if Tim Burton tried to make something joyful?  Just for once?  Well, with Big Fish, he did.  Don’t worry, it still has his wife.  (Shakes fist in the air).  Don’t just watch the movie, just go buy it.  Get it in blu-ray, too.  You really want the full cinematic experience, if you can.  Don’t have blu ray yet?  Buy it… just for this movie.

Your favorite adaptation of a book to a movie?

 Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.  So good it is freaky!  Depp goes FULL Hunter Thompson in this role.  Not just window dressing, either.  HST was in full cooperation with the film… well… as cooperative as someone like HST could be.  Depp lived with Hunter for months before the filming.  They became fast and close friends.  So much so that when Hunter died, Depp paid for the whole ‘launching his ashes into space from a Gonzo fist cannon that was several stories high’.  Yeah, that isn’t a typo or urban legend.  It happened, and all thanks to Johnny.  They had a kinship all along as they are both from Kentucky.

 Your least favorite adaptation ever of anything to a movie?

Being a book guy, I am always supposed to say ‘the book was better’.  However, I have almost universally enjoyed adaptations of my favorite books into movies.  I like to see the creativity of filmmakers trying to capture such an ephemeral thing.  For example, the last ‘Alice in Wonderland’ movie with Johnny Depp.  Everyone shit on it.  There are good reasons to shit on it – it WAY over featured Johnny Depp, and of course since it was Burton the lead role went to his wife.  He does that EVERY FUCKING MOVIE.  Though my praise for Depp’s acting in ‘Fear & Loathing’ is effusive… he isn’t too good in this movie.  Too hammy, just chewing up scenery being all proud of himself for looking clever.  We can blame Burton for that, though.

But… I loved it (Fear & Loathing, that is).  Here is why – everyone has told that story in various forms of film.  It’s a classic.  The Burton one, though, is a totally different telling.  It takes a story never told… which is what happens if Alice goes back to that world as an adult.  What happens?  Who is there?  Did anything, or anyone, change?  Did it ever really happen?  I think that is cool and creative.  I haven’t seen the second one, but I will.  I waited on purpose.  Since it was reviewed to badly, I knew I could wait and just buy a bluray copy for $10.  I like those (as opposed to just watching it on Amazon) because you get all the featurettes and behind the scenes stuff.

 Your first ever novel/comic book/movie character crush?

  • Editors note: Long diatribe warning

The guys in Spinal Tap.  I mean, it is just some British actors playing dumb, right?  Not remotely!  The actors are all American, and improvised the entire movie, AND wrote AND performed those songs.  It went so well that the fake band accidentally became a real band.   They released albums and recorded new music and even toured.  If you look at all these starlets today, you see Spinal Tap was more real than any of them.  Think Rhianna writes her own songs?  Think she can play and instrument?  Think she actually sings in concert?  Spinal Tap wins on every level.

In fact, those guys went on to do more movies together, and the guys wrote an entirely new music act for ‘a Mighty Wind’, which is actually a great folk album.  Got to see them live, and they played both Spinal Tap songs and a Mighty Wind songs.  That movie (another Chris Guest project) was also entirely improvised.

Why do it?  They are crazy rich.  The bass player is 40% of the voices on the Simpsons.  He probably has 100 million in the bank, and he is schlepping around from city to city playing these silly and perfect songs from 30 years ago.

My favorite thing about these guys when they did press for Spinal Tap (not known as a classic when it was released, but a stupid and pointless low budget art film)… they only did it in character.  You never got to interview Chris Guest or Michael McKean or Harry Shearer.  You could only talk to Derek Smalls, Nigel Tufnel, and David St Hubbins.  Now… we know Chris Guest as a genius filmmaker, and Harry Shearer as most of the Simpsons.  Back then, in 1980?  A bunch of improve yahoos.  Michael McKean was only known for playing Lenny in Laverne & Shirley.

Can you imagine how they got that film financed?  “I need 5 million bucks to make a movie with these unproven and unknown actors.”  Who will compose the score?  Who is your screenwriter?  Who is going to actually record the songs they pretend to sing?  You know, like we did with the Monkeys.

Well… about that.  No script.  No musicians.  No songwriters.  No famous actors.  We are just going to throw it to some improve guys. There is no screenplay, they are just going to make up the dialogue as we film.  They will write the songs themselves, and play all the instruments in the recordings.  It’s about a fake British heavy metal band that is washed up.”

Has that ever been done before then?  Roy Scheider is quite famous for improving the line ‘you’re gonna need a bigger boat’ in Jaws.  Everyone looks to that moment to prove his genius.  One sentence.  BFD.  If it were Chris Guest’s crew, they would have made up all the dialogue, built the boat themselves… and fought a real fucking shark.

 I mean, I know it is a masterpiece now… but at the time I bet they got laughed out of Hollywood.  Now, hopefully, you recognize the great McKean from Better Call Saul.  Jesus, is there anything these guys can’t do?  Listen to ‘listen to the flower people’ and tell me that song is not as good or better than anything of that era.  Also, full disclosure… I finally got my band to learn ‘Big Bottom’.  We played it at our last gig.

*bonus news, the guy behind these films, Chris Guest (Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, For your Approval, a Mighty Wind…) has a new film out soon.  It’s called ‘Mascots’, and will be on Netflix soon.  Like everything Larry David does, you can assume it will be all improvised, and wonderfully stupid.

Friday Fives – bookin’ it!

c91985f576da17aa4ce74e282f35b4c2

Can you remember the first book you read?

5 were missing.  It is a kids book about school kids who get kidnapped.  It is a pretty fucked up story, and involves death.  Good job, America, handing this to children.  No wonder why I am so messed up!  It was a very good and compelling story.  The reason I remember it is that it popped into my mind recently, so I bought it and read it as an adult.  It held up pretty well.  Also, I knocked it out in a couple of hours.  This means I have it, somewhere, at home.  Come borrow it. I’ll help you with the big words.

What was the last book (electronic or otherwise) you read?

Currently reading ‘Ruthless’.  It’s a brand new book about Scientology leader David Miscavige.  He is known to be a terrible person.  Everyone who has left Scientology says he is a bully,  a psycho, a misogynist, and a master manipulator.  I say misogynist because he hasn’t let his wife, Shelly, leave the house or be seen in public for so long that concerned friends reported her missing.  TEN YEARS.

I was very excited to read this book.  Bonus, it is written by someone with intimate and legit knowledge of both.  Author is a lifelong Scientologist, and actually raves about Scientology and its positive effects on his life… before the monster took over and ran everything.  Oh, and it’s his dad!  Yeah, David Miscavige’s own father penned it.  I am about halfway through so far.  Very compelling read so far.

Do you read for enjoyment, work or both?

Mostly enjoyment, but I do enjoy reading leadership books.  Well, I did until I read this book.  Hop over to here and go down about four books.  I reviewed it there.

What is your favorite genre of book to read?

Autobiographies, first and foremost.  Under that tier, musicians… obviously.  I am always wanting to know the behind the scenes of life.  The minutia, the decision making, the luck and the failures.  What made them great?  Do they know?  The older I get, the more I am into history.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it when I was very young. It seemed unreal, like fiction.

I think there is a better opportunity for kids like to learn history now.  Growing up, there was just books.  So, the stories were incredibly boring.  Now, with film and special effects… stories can be told in a way that will engage the young mind.  Heck, look at Hamilton.  No one knew more than the story about him dying in a duel until recently, and rap music and dance brought that story to life.  That is bad ass!

If you could visit your younger self, what book would you tell yourself to steer clear of?

Just about everything recommended or popular.  I HATED reading when I was a kid.  Everything they gave us was SO boring and sterile and devoid of life and real life experiences.  It wasn’t until high school when a buddy turned me on to Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson that I learned books can be awesome.  These guys wrote about sex and drugs and violence and boredom too.  But… it was honest, and not coached in bullshit metaphors.

I don’t think I would hand Tropic of Cancer or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to a ten year old me.  BUT… I would have at least gotten Alice in Wonderland in my hands by then.  To show me literature and reading and history can be awesome… all depending on the storyteller.

 

Friday Fives – he is STILL prattling on about Alice in Wonderland… again

nature-mandalas-coloring-book-tree-by-thaneeya

Yesterday was World Book Day.  What was the first book that had an impact on your life? 

It would be something from Kermit.  In high school, Kermit turned me on to a LOT.  Books, authors, music, and art.  Probably the most impactful was Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’.  I am not gonna spoil it and tell you what it’s about.  BUT… I will tell you it rocked my world.  Everything up to then, in reading, was boring as shit.  I HATED reading, it was punishment.  Why?  Because the schools only turn you on to boring as shit.  Henry Miller was all about sex and drugs and general Bukowskian debauchery.  Oh, and Kermit turned me on to Bukowski, too.  Go watch Barfly with Mickey Rourke NOW if you don’t know about Charles Bukowski.

He (Kermit) showed me reading was cool, and opened up a whole world of counter culture heroes.  I ended up getting a degree in literature… pretty much because Henry Miller showed me there is joy in madness and occasional sin.

 Do you read “hard copy” books and mags or have your turned to digital ebooks and magazines? 

Hardy copy actual books.  It strains my eyes to look at computer screens to read.  Plus, like you, I am a cubicle monkey who stares at computers 9 to 10 hours a day.  Plus, I am often on my phone.  I do not need more screen time.

What is your favorite genre to read? 

Historical biographies and rock and roll autobiographies

Do you consider reading a pastime? Why or why not?

Uh… sure.  I guess.  Weirdly worded question.  I think there is assuredly a very timeless aspect to reading a book.  I love the idea that I have books that are so old that the first person who read it was using candle light… pre-electricity.  Not just that they are reading the same story… but that this very book in my hand has lived a thousand lives.

Do you have a favorite book character who has stayed with you after the book was finished?

Alice, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  She is my hero.  She takes all this insanity around her, and is only curious and polite in return.  At no time does she yell “omg, seriously.  What the fucking fuck is that?”  This is how most of us might handle seeing a caterpillar sitting on a ginormous mushroom smoking a hookah.  That, to me, is a big bag of WTF.

you know I talk about this book a LOT.  Let’s be specific, then, shall we?

I think my favorite scene is (likely) from the second book.  They are all sitting around about to eat.  Alice’s hosts rather politely introduce her to all the food.  Normally, I guess, this would be simply the courteous thing to do.  Problem, though; “everyone knows it is not polite to eat food once you have been introduced to it.”  So, being ever so polite (and ever so hungry)… she never does eat.

Friday Fives – that reminds me

What movie do you quote/reference the most?

Princess Bride, or Spinal Tap

What TV show do you quote/reference the most?

Seinfeld. Every hour that goes by lends itself to a Seinfeld reference. I have read a book by a writer on that show, and he mentions that show was unique. Larry David wanted real stories from people’s lives for the show. He didn’t want things made up that would seem funny. Other shows, the writer said, stayed FAR away from real life because everyone was afraid of getting sued. The book was by Fred Stoller. I forget the title, but if you hop over to my ‘what I am reading’ section and do a control F on the name ‘Stoller’, it will come up.

What song do you quote/reference the most?

Bob Dylan.  Anything, and everything, off ‘Blood on the Tracks’.  Now, why didn’t you ask me what book I most reference? You don’t even care, do you? Well, I’ll tell you anyway… and you likely know this by now – Alice in Wonderland.

What TV series has/had the best music/soundtrack?

The music around the Sopranos was always just perfect. Lot of ambiance and tension.  Just hearing that opening sequence and watching Tony drive across the bridge, you knew great and amazing things were going to happen in the next hour.

What movie has/had the best music/soundtrack?

No question here, no race to the top – Blues Brothers takes it far and away. Ok, listen, that was short. You ain’t getting more. I started a new job and I am on day 2 of a 10 day in a row swing. Going from not working, to ten days in a row… or even TWO days in a row… well, I am going to bed now. I love you, have a great weekend!

Friday Fives – snitches get … well… you know

What is your favorite poem? Can you recite part of it from memory?

Easy, Jabberwocky. It’s a piece of total and utter nonsense from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Of course, the whole book is full of nonsense, but this poem is largely constructed of words that don’t exist. It’s a perfectly cromulent solution.  Below, this is just working off memory, I swear!

Twas brilling and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble

All mimsy were the borogroves, and the momraths outgrab

 One two, one two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker snack

He left it dead and with its head he came galumphing back

 And has thou slain the Jabberwocky? Come to my arms, my frabjous boy

Calloo, calay!

Ok, that was totally and entirely from memory. Not bad, especially when you consider half the words don’t exist. There is a middle part I left out, right before the battle. However, the battle and subsequent result… I think I nailed that perfectly. Let’s see how we did?  Here is the last part, about the battle.  Yup, look above… almost nailed the second half verbatim!

One, two! One, two! And through and through

      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

      He went galumphing back.

 “And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

It’s no big surprise, but I am not generally a fan of poems. I think it’s self indulgent blathering and navel gazing. You, of course, will then say ‘what about lyrics? You claim to love music so much… those are just poems!’ Shut up. No they aren’t. Lyrics have ae job. They are serving the song and the mood. Lyrics get up every goddamn day and go to work. Poems sit around all and don’t do shit except congratulate themselves for being so thoughtful.

Because I truly am the hero of the proletariat®, I wrote some much and put Lewis Carroll’s word do it. It’ called Dreamland. Look at these words. Beyond perfect and beautiful. Now that I have a band, I need to put that song to work. I think I forgot the music.   Anyhow, here is Lewis Carroll’s ‘Dreamland’. I should have mentioned that one above, as I have 90% of those words memorized.

When midnight mists are creeping
And all the land is sleeping
Around me tread the mighty dead
And slowly pass away

Lo, warriors, saints, and sages
From out the vanished ages
With solemn pace and reverend face
Appear and pass away

The blaze of noonday splendour
The twilight soft and tender
May charm the eye: yet they shall die
Shall die and pass away

But here, in Dreamland’s centre
No spoiler’s hand may enter
These visions fair, this radiance rare
Shall never pass away

I see the shadows falling
The forms of old recalling
Around me tread the mighty dead
And slowly pass away

 What is your favorite work of visual art? Can you sketch some of it from memory?

I love Dali, in a big way. I think he is the greatest artist of all time.  When we were in Spain, we went to his museum in Figueras and it was amazing. I think Picasso isn’t fit to clean his empty dishes. Like Alice in Wonderland, Dali had a wonderful sense of the totally absurd. This painting comes to mind, because the painting and the title of said painting are just… terrible. Today, we’ll feature a lesser known piece by Dali called “The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft, which can be used as a table”.   I don’t think that is necessarily high art. I think it’s dumb, which is why I love Dali.

If you think you don’t know Dali, you do. Take a look at this painting. It’s certainly his most iconic. Now, there is another part of the question. Could I draw it from memory? Well, I kinda think I can, and did. Take a look at the original, and my quick sketch. Teaser alert… I am not going to tell you which is mine, and which is his.

my vermeer sketch

Now; keeping in mind I have no artistic ability… or even and desire to have the abillity, this is pretty darn good!

What is your favorite piece of music? Can you sing or hum any of it from memory? Bonus points if you can sing a line of harmony from it.

Golly, that question is too big. Music is my thing, and there is no song I can’t just pop off. Wait, I gotta give you something, right? Wifey was singing this when we were changing the sheets- she started singing the Monkees theme song… and it’s still in my head. Now it’s in yours. What a great song!

Since you brought up the Monkees, here are a couple of interesting facts about them. They were the first group famous for not writing, recording, and anything of their songs. Know who wrote a lot of their songs? Neil Diamond!

Here is your second tasty Monkees trvia. Jimi Hendrix first tour of him being himself (as opposed to being a side man and session man) was opening for the Monkees. Even better, he was kicked off for sucking! It makes sense if you think about it. Does a 10 year old girl wanna hear acid blues? Especially from a huge black man hopped up on everything?

What is your favorite dance form? Can you dance it yourself, however badly, or is it something for which you are mostly a spectator?

My favorite form of dancing is none. I hate to dance. Really, really do. Ask my wifey. Going to weddings kills her, because of course she wants to dance. I try, and I’ll do a couple dances, but it really makes me feel uncomfortable. I can admit this, though. When the Grateful Dead is playing live (from anywhere, a record player, on tv, in concert whatever) I will dance. Tell no one, capiche? Snitches get bitches!****

What is your favorite work of literature? Have you committed any of it to memory?

I think I have answered that in the previous questions. I have a literature degree, so books are a big deal to me. I love them. My favorite book is the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ series by Lewis Carroll. I have written about it exhaustively here. My second favorite book? Lamb, the Gospel of Christ as explained to Biff’ – by Christopher Moore

*** Snitches get Bitches®

holy shit, I just coined that this very second. Man, that was good. I need to patent that shit!

Hunter Thompson and Salvador Dali – prisoners of their own creations

I love Hunter Thompson, and Salvador Dali.  I LOT.  Like, I moved my life around for those two.  HST is a big part of why I moved to Colorado.  As for Dali, we honeymooned in Spain, partially so we could travel to Figueres to the Dali museum.  Both were worth it.  They are both huge influences and heroes to me.  Never, until recently, did I think of them together.  On a flight over the Pacific, I watched this cool documentary on Dali.  I would hyperlink it here, but I don’t remember the name of it, or the production company, or anything. To clarify, this doc had nothing to do with Hunter at all. In watching the doc, though, I had an epiphany.

On so many levels, Hunter S Thompson and Salvador Dali were the same person.

Boy, I better deliver on that one.  See, they were both creative geniuses.  They were both  HUGELY celebrated artists.  They were both starfuckers.  They were both trapped by their best creations… themselves.  They both peaked early, and spent the rest of their lives being haunted and pigeonholed by those creations.  Hunter talks about it openly below (jump ahead to the 11 minute mark, but watch the whole piece if you can.  It’s pretty good).

Basically, they had both peaked by 30.  They both did little, effectively, after that.  Hunter, for example, probably has 20 books to his name.  About 3*** were original creative works of any kind of consequence. The rest, and there are MANY, are collections of letters or short stories. (*** see below for aside on this)

Though I love just about all of Dali’s art, and most of Hunter’s full length books (remember, there are basically 3)… their best creations was themselves.  These two LOVED a spectacle.  They invented spectacle.  This was fun and awesome, likely, when they were young.  It became a prison of sorts as they aged.  You realize quickly, as Jimi Hendrix did, that people just want to see that character.  In the early days, Jimi did wild stuff to his equipment, just out of fun and passion.  Pete Townshend, too.  In time, though, people didn’t come to here Jimi play the blues.  They wanted stunts.  For Pete, they wanted to see a Strat smashed of they would have felt they never saw a full Who show.

Luckily, for all mentioned above (except Hendrix), they got to live long enough to see the futility of their creations come to haunt them.  I say ‘luckily’ not because I want them to suffer… but luckily that they had long enough lives to see the silliness of being such a one dimensional characters.

For both Dali, and Thompson… being themselves was their full time jobs.  Remember, Hunter lived to 2005, but hadn’t written anything at length of consequence since 1972.  Now, is that to say Hunter did dick all for 35 years but ride his own coattails?  Yeah, pretty much.

With Dali, we are lucky that we have a great body of work.  However, the documentary I watched strongly implied that he also didn’t do dick all after about 30.  Oh sure, you get the lobster telephone.  However, it isn’t exactly on par with the masterpiece ‘Persistence of Memory‘.  In fact, look at the irony; there is an expression used when people put in bare minimum effort and still get credit.  It’s called ‘phoning it in’.  Is there a better example in all of history than this?

While it isn’t my personal favorite piece, it is certainly Dali’s best known.  ‘Persistence of Memory‘ is most known for it’s iconic ‘soft watches’, though I always called them melting clocks.  Even the Simpson‘s have paid homage.  Aw heck, it looks like everyone has.

This isn’t meant to be critical in an anti-artistic sorta way.  It is more meant to be critical in a ‘huh, I never thought of it that way.  Maybe you got something there’.   Really, mostly I am just jealous.  These guys are SO impactful to my life.  I think I write this to help me better understand why. Proof of their impact on me?  My first tattoo will be a Ralph Steadman drawing of the great white rabbit from the Alice books.  I have been trimming my beard for years, but never ONCE the edges of my mustache, in hopes I can do this one day.

 

*** 3 books of HST.   There is Hells’ Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972.  That is it.  That is all you need to know about Hunter from start to finish.  Now, he has 4 books of compiled letters (I am also including ‘Better than Sex’ here) and about 10 of short story compilations.  In retrospect, that is kind of a week body of work.  However, those few books were SO good and SO influential.  Look at Lewis Carrol.  What else did he write besides Alice in Wonderland?  Nothing, really.  He was a preacher and a mathematician.  He wrote books on math.  His name isn’t even ‘Lewis Carroll’.  Carroll is a pseudonym he used for the Alice books because he was so embarrassed and mortified of what his religious math buddies would think of his silly childhood fantasy tales.