Quirky

Snowy Eyes & Ears: My Winter Break Book & Podcast Recommendations

It’s that magical time of year: the snow falls, the semester ends, cookies are everywhere. Best of all, I get to read and listen to non-homework related content! Suck it, Blackboard.

This is my last winter break ever, by the way. I’m finishing school in May. My goals include reading through my book list, catching up on podcasts, and returning to CodeAcademy to learn HTML and CSS. Oh yeah, I’ll also be preparing for a Pompeii-style resume distribution. (Shhh… be very, very quite. It’s job hunting season.) Also, are you hiring?

Sure, this is a big list to get through. How will I do it? A fresh case of Surge soda, will do. Also, you should help me conquer this list, we can be accountability partners. It’ll be like an entertainment support group. It’ll get us through the winter. I’ll bring the Surge.

Books

spyfromcold

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold—John Le Carre

I led off with this book for two reasons: 1) it has “cold” in the title, which relates perfectly to my winter theme and 2) my best friend’s fiancé said it was one of her favorite books. They’re not getting married until April, which gives me plenty of time. If the book sucks, I’ll have to shut down that wedding, Wayne Campbell style.

tumblr_n855ti6PTY1sp4nfqo1_500 (more…)

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Best of 2014: Music & Film

Another year, another best-of list. One of these days, when I’m old and gray, I’m going to show these lists to my grandkids and prove to them that I was at, one time, relevant with pop culture. They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” I’ll say, “What?” They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” And I’ll say, “What?”

You get the idea.

As for now, I’m happy to report that I still have my hearing and that I am loving 2014 music and film. Up first: here are some of my favorite albums and tracks from the year. Some you probably know, maybe a few you don’t? Give them a listen and let me know if any resonate with you.

Music

Kevin Morby-Still Life

Kevin Morby is my new favorite singer-songwriter. I’ve been obsessed with Still Life, his latest effort, for a few weeks now. The range of this record is amazing. From minimalist acoustic/drum tracks (see below), to fuzzy reverb layers, to clean 70’s pop, to indie folk, this album has a bit of everything, and it executes it well.

In reviews, I try to stay away from easy artist comparisons. Hardworking musicians, like Morby, deserve complex criticisms. That said, Kevin Morby is the brilliant lovechild of Nick Cave and David Bazan, though was raised by his god parents in the 90’s in a sailboat off Santa Monica by Beck and Lou Reed. That’s what he sounds like. Got it?

SBTRKT-Wonder Where We Land (more…)

I broke my Facebook argument virginity and all I got was this lousy blog post

I have a hate/hate relationship with Facebook. Sure, I didn’t have to rejoin the social media giant three times. But I did. The reality is that Facebook is a necessary evil. For me? It’s a networking tool for freelancing. Also, after moving across the country, it aided me in remembering new faces and new acquaintances.

Facebook, really, isn’t evil. I try not to be an either/or type of person. I believe it’s best to live somewhere in the middle. Between the mean of two extremes, as Aristotle would tweet.

Facebook arguments, however, are evil and dumb and silly and fun to watch.

They have never settled well with me. Mean spirited. All-too-easy. Festering and sprouting at every opportunity, usually ending in a dog pile of earnest, hurt emotions.

As a veteran online-conscious being, I have abjured all temptations to join any form of online argument. Even as a political Independent. The stuff I see on Facebook (racist, ignorant, stereotype perpetuating, heavy bias journalism) makes me want to scream my fingers off. And the way people pounce on one another. Ugh.

Facebook is a daily lesson in self-restraint, certainly.

That is, until I broke my Facebook argument virginity. I caved in. I can’t even find my promise ring.

The Facebook Argument

There are many kinds of online arguments. Let’s break this down. (more…)

2014 Netflix Halloween Playlist (3rd Annual!)

Everybody now: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Ahhhh. Don’t you just love Halloween? I know I do.

Fall season creeps in: candy apples and carved pumpkins, cardboard tombstones and plastic costumes, counter culture and scary movies. What I really love about Halloween is that it can look different to everybody. For me, even as a kid, I grew up watching horror. Really, I’m not sure how I got away with it. Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers were as familiar to me as Mr. Rogers and Big Bird.

As I have aged I have got away from the horror genre a bit. So, now, when Halloween comes around, I enjoy packing in as many nostalgia-filled frightening flicks as I can (especially since my wife doesn’t usually watch them. Her childhood was NOT filled with grotesque, slasher movies… whatever that’s about).

Not sure what to watch this Halloween?

I made a Netflix playlist for us to enjoy. As usual it’s a mix of campy, fun, classic, horror and X-Files. I would love it if you joined me. We can discuss it on Twitter and have a ball.

So never fear (or should you? Mwahahahah). I got you covered.

Note: This list is good for either a spooky, all night marathon or spread nights before Halloween. Your pick.

Check out last year’s list too!

The Number Kevin’s 3rd Annual Netflix Halloween Playlist

paranorman2012-poster-wideParaNorman (2012)

It is always good to start out light, and I love kid-friendly Halloween movies. Monster House, Ernest Scared Stupid, for instance. ParaNorman has been on my Netflix List for quite some time. I have NOT seen it. This year, I plan on getting to it.

The Twilight Zone: Mr Garrity and the Graves (S1. E32)

TheTwilightZoneLogo

From friendly kid movie, we’ll move into classic TV shows. The Twilight Show was a favorite of mine as a child. I watched both the new and old editions (does anyone know how the newer version holds up?), as well as The Outer Limits. “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” is highly rated, and looks quite spooky: an unknown traveler who brings a small town’s deceased back from the dead.  (more…)

Sharing Saturation Through DeLillo’s “White Noise”

Over summer, my wife and I visited the most photographed lighthouse in the world. We didn’t question the claim’s validity. We just went with it. The lighthouse stop was part of our New Hampshire and Maine last minute road trip. It was a good trip. We slept in the car and jumped in the water and ate a lot of seafood. We were in York when we heard about it: “The most photographed lighthouse.” Just up the road, said the internet, a few miles from where you are.

So we jumped in the car and found it. Instinctively, my first thought was, Yes, this looks like a lighthouse. It’s cute, scenic, impressionable. It is all the things lighthouses are and should be.

I didn’t want to take a picture.

Rather, it seemed better to be the guy who visits “Most Photographed” type places, and doesn’t take pictures. The concept would make for a good blog. But as I stood there watching dozens of tourists snapping their film and tapping their screens—a fervent mixture of new and old technology, crunching, shaking, iPhones uploading moments through invisible data, data that I too could claim!—something crept up inside me, like a tremor, and before I knew it, there I was, unceremoniously taking a picture.

So here’s the picture:

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It wasn’t until later, while reading a novel by Don DeLillo, that the lighthouse was *uhem* illuminated once more inside my head. As I’ve come to understand, DeLillo is a cultural critic; his novels address society’s many obsessions and explores what roles these obsessions play in our lives, as well as how they define us. Death, technology, consumerism, media, crowds, for instance, these are common motifs DeLillo highlights with excellent vision and irony.

His novel, White Noise, takes a look at these motifs and addresses them in terms of family life and the suburbs (also there’s an Airborne Toxic Event). Here’s what a book cover may look like: (more…)

Flex your kindness muscle, jerk

One of my favorite short fiction authors, George Saunders (that is, short story, not short in stature), regrets his many failures of kindness.

51xfEKhLwAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Saunders released a new book this year entitled, “Congratulations, by the way,” and I would highly recommend it for your bookshelf. Honestly, it isn’t as much a book as it is a transcript of a commencement speech he gave. But it is fun. Also, the cover is pretty and the kindness theme is a blunt and necessary reminder. All this, of course, is well worth your time.

I found Saunder’s book at (uhem) *Urban Outfitters* in the clearance bin while on vacation. Clearance bin!? How kind.

Anyway, I’d like to be more kind.

I’ve never thought about kindness being a skill. Can it be a skill? If so, then the consequences are scary. It means our kindness can improve. I always assumed, embarrassingly, that kindness was limited by our predispositions, how our parents and community nurtured us. I assumed that “kind people” were naturally built to be nice, and the jerks (that’s me) were off the hook for round-the-clock niceness.

But framing kindness in this new light asks us to reconsider our intentionality (as well as coming to terms with the necessity of proper planetary social interdependence). Are we doing enough?

Saunders does three things in this book that I very much respect: 1) he admits he wasn’t always kind 2) he explores why we aren’t all necessarily inclined to be kind and 3) he assumes that everyone could be kind if they just focused on better (more selfless) things.

Here’s a couple quotes from the (incredibly) fast read:

“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded… sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

“Since we have observed that kindness is variable, we might also sensibly conclude that it is improvable; that is, there must be approaches and practices that can actually increase our ambient level of kindness.” (more…)