Saturday, August 29, 2015

Capsule Reviews Volume V (Books & Music)

Aperture 154: Explorations: Nine Portfolios (Aperture Magazine)
Gorgeous, varied photography. The nine photographers featured here are so different that this edition of Aperture is a joy to look through. I really treasure this and as an amateur photographer, it inspires me to do better with my new hobby. I highly recommend this to anyone who can still find it. (* * * * *)

Cat and Mouse by Gunter Grass
Dead grass. I thought Grass' use of language rivaled Nabokov in sheer enjoyment of reading, but the story here wandered and was a little pointless. I was assigned this in a German film class, and enjoyed the film version of "The Tin Drum" much more. (* * *)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Modern Spirituality Series)
Easy and thought provoking...I have been nervous about Bonhoeffer's work until I picked up this slim volume. Although it is meant to be read day by day, I finished it in under two hours. Bonhoeffer was so uplifting, despite his final days, and this book perfectly takes his thoughts and compresses them into enough snippets that make you want to read more. I am a curious layperson who strongly recommends this little book with big ideas. (* * * * *)

Edward Weston (Aperture Masters of Photography)
Great Aperture book. Wow, a photography book that you do not have to buy with a loan application or perfect credit. Weston was such a commanding presence in so many photographic fields, and this overview of his work is great. One quibble: I wish there had been better ties between the women in his life and the nudes featured here. Who was who? Also, his bio mentions the last photo he took, but does not include it. Other than that, great work by a great artist and a great inspiration. (* * * * *)

Edward Weston: Nudes
Excellent book. This was the type of book I was looking for concerning Weston's nude photography. The background, written by his wife and model, was excellent, and the pictures were laid out perfectly. Highly recommended to any Weston fan. (* * * * *)

The Freedom Principle by Lansing Pollock
Easy to read explanation of libertarianism. Libertarians rejoice. Although this book is out of print, find it in a library and give it to your local doubter. It easily explains the libertarian philosophy in under 125 pages, and will convince even the most hardened liberal or conservative with its logic. (* * * *)

Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen
Hey, Whoopi Goldberg isn't in this...I found the play interesting, but Oswald's hysterics were melodramatic and bordered on comical. For a better play about a dysfunctional family, read Tennessee Williams. (* * *)

Guam (Let's Visit Places & Peoples of the World) by William Lutz
How to make an island paradise seem boring. Lutz writes an eighty page encyclopedia entry, giving you everything you ever wanted to know about this Pacific island, while proving he did not step foot on the island. The photographs seem to be from the 1960's, despite the 1987 book copyright date. The Guamanians are portrayed as backward and overly reliable on the government to cure its ills. Although this site lists this as a kids book, your child will be bored silly. (* *)

Harms Way: Lust & Madness, Murder & Mayhem: A Book of Photographs by Stanley B. Burns
Get out of the Way. While the photographs here were shocking, they were also exploitative. Just because they are old does not lessen the impact of photos of murdered children and freaks of nature. I am not sure what this book wanted to do, but it did not do it well. It is like reading a book version of the trashy Faces of Death video series. (* *)

Holy Hilarity by Cal Samra
More hilarity please. While this book was amusing, I have seen many of the items before, and I kept waiting for the various authors to break some real ground here, but they played it safe too often. (* * *)

Inside the White House by Ronald Kessler
Don't bother me, I'm showering off this book...Sleazy? Yes. Entertaining? Yes, to a point. Many flawed men have served as president, but many of Kessler's sources come off as bitter and possibly unreliable. I wish some of these bubble headed secretaries Johnson slept with would come forward...other than that, I think this is just a nonfiction potboiler that Harold Robbins or Jacqueline Susann would have written. Note to future presidents: try to be nice to the help and just have sex with your wives or husbands, end rumor mongering and run the country. (* * *)

Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others by Steven A. Beebe
Interpersonally...I read this book for an undergraduate class and thought it was very good. One problem-- the final chapter was too brief, they should have split it into three like the previous edition. (* * * *)

Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1999
Comprehensive, to a point...I have been reading Maltin's books for years, but I wish he would include smaller films, and no Made-For-TV flicks. (* * * *)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Book with baggage...I hope no one refuses to read this book based on its subject matter. It is very funny, very real, and very well written. Forget about the mediocre film version of three years ago and just give this a chance. You will be pleasantly surprised. (* * * *)

Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese by Michael J. Nelson
Literally the funniest book I have ever read. I am a longtime MSTie, and this book was absolutely hilarious. Nelson's style of writing is so breezy, I felt like he was in the same room with me (although that may have been the shrine to him I erected in the linen closet). I recommend this to any movie lover, and any fellow Upper Midwesterner; it is nice to see references to other parts of the country besides L.A. and NYC. (* * * * *)

More Church Chuckles by Dick Hafer
Not all church folk are uptight. This small, funny book proves you can go to church, live a good life, and still laugh at yourself. I did not think this was as funny as the first one, but I am glad I have it. Very insightful, funny stuff here. (* * * *)

More Holy Hilarity by Cal Samra
More Holy, less hilarity. You can read my review of the first book in the series and apply it here. More of the same oft-told stories without trying anything new. I will stick to the Church Chuckles series instead. (* * *)

On Writing Science Fiction: The Editors Strike Back by George H. Scithers
A great book for ALL fiction writers. The 1981 editors of Asimov's magazine use stories from their own periodical to illustrate some excellent points about how to write good science fiction. Do not worry if your stories do not involve robots and aliens, any fiction writer would find plenty to help here. Despite the outdatedness, as the editors lecture on how to set your typewriter in order to produce clear manuscripts, using the short stories is a great idea. Even the stories' authors admit their work is flawed. Throw in a great bibliography and reading list, and some very funny observations from the editors about submissions (they are rejecting papers you typed on, not you personally) and this is a quick read and very informative. I highly recommend it if you can find it! (* * * * *)

Out of Bondage by Linda Lovelace
Linda Marchiano (also known as Linda Lovelace) ties up loose ends to Ordeal in this excellent followup. I read Ordeal in one day, then checked this out and read it in six hours. Please read these books before you decide to rent Deep Throat. You will never look at porn the same way again, maybe you will not look at it at all. (* * * * *)

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Pnin is pdull. I loved Lolita, but I found this Nabokov story to be dull and pointless. I was very disappointed despite all the wonderful language he uses. (* *)

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
I was impressed with Weber's point about capitalism being an offshoot of Calvinist's trying to please God through hard work, but this is a long and tough read for the layman. (* * *)

Red Lobster, White Trash, & the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan's America by Joe Queenan
Joe has been funnier...I usually enjoy Queenan's work, but here the laughs were few and far between. Yes, he spoke volumes of truth, but I was often puzzled by the lack of humor. What, Joe, no Denny's review? Also, there were a few factual errors in the book that made me wonder if Joe had indeed seen a couple of the films he mentions. (* *)

Relax, It's Only A Ghost by Echo L. Bodine
Relax, it's only a book. I certainly like Bodine's breezy way of writing, but I expected a little more from this than the shallow job I received. I wish she had gone into research about the spirits she encountered so we would know for a fact that they existed as she claims. Instead, she repeats herself often about the rules of ghosts, and tacks on a ridiculous chapter about dealing with a ghost. Of course, she also claims the ultimate Catch-22: if you believe in the spirits, you can see them; if you do not see them, you are not a believer. I will wait until I see them. This was a really short read, but I wish it had more substance. (* *)

Robert Mapplethorpe: Pictures by Robert Mapplethorpe
One word: Ouch. You can always debate whether this book is "art" or not, but the fact is I am worried about what happened to some of the subjects. Helmut? Are you okay? I think Mapplethorpe wanted to shock, and he did, but I found the pictures had too much pain in them to be appreciated. I was deadened to what Mapplethorpe wanted to say, if he wanted to say anything at all. Ouch, ouch, ouch. (* *)

The Seduction of Hillary Rodham by David Brock
Sleazy title, good matter what you think of the Clintons, this is not a hack job. The writing is very balanced, if a little confusing during the Whitewater phase, and Hillary comes off as someone with flaws- her main one being her husband. Can't get enough of those Clintons! (* * * *)

The Stupidest Things Ever Said by Politicians
Very funny, which is very scary. Sure, we know how dumb things find a way to get into our politicians' mouths (Monica excluded), but this very funny book just shows how repeatedly dumb some politicians can be. Although I am Republican, I found most of the humor in Dan Quayle's quotes, of which there are many. The scary thing is we continue to elect these people to office to represent and lead us. Makes you think. (* * * * *)

Theater: A Crash Course by Rob Graham
A very funny book, I did not think the history of theater could be so funny. The author never condescends, but the information here is presented in a great format that will make you laugh out loud. Highly recommended, especially for all of those theater majors out there. (* * * * *)

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
Even the Russians have problems...I enjoyed this play immensely, although some of the relations were hard to keep track of. The characters were strongly written, and everything flowed really well. (* * * *)

VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2000
Quantity does not equal quality! Over the years I have found some glaring errors in the Retriever's Guide, including wrong names for director, writer, etc. I don't know if they still do it, but they had Don "The Dragon" Wilson starring in films from the 1930's under his filmography. Take it with a grain of salt...if they made this many mistakes in credits, how do you know the films were really watched? (* *)

VideoHound's Horror Show: 999 Hair-Raising, Hellish and Humorous Movies by Mike Mayo
Are we looking at the same book? The reviews are terrible, the non-horror choices are ridiculous (Apocalypse Now?, that's the horror of war, not horror), and the cast and director indices leave something to be desired. The author will give a film a great review, then short it in the # of bones rating. I have to recommend trimming off the fat before expanding into another edition. (*)

The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde
Doesn't do Wilde justice. While Wilde was one of the greatest wits of our time, this book of epigrams is sorely lacking. His bits of conversation are fun to read, but quotations from his written works are taken out of context and lose much because of that. I recommend this for any Wildephile, but with reservations. (* * *)

Pet Shop Boys- Nightlife
Better than what you hear on the radio. The Pet Shop Boys have never faltered in what they give their fans, and this album is no exception. Great music, heartfelt lyrics, and funky album covers and liner notes are all to be expected. This does not live up to Very or Bilingual, but everything the Boys do is listenable and notable. (* * * *)