Song of the Week: “Rolling in the Deep/Ain’t No Mountain” by Aretha Franklin

I always thought that “Rolling in the Deep” sounded like a cover of an Aretha Franklin song.  This confirms that Adele is a time traveler.

Song of the Week: “Hot & Cold” by Ex Hex

Ex Hex, the latest band formed by Mary Timony (of Helium and Wild Flag fame, among others) has a terrific new album called Rips. “Hot & Cold” is the first video from the album, but check out the rest of the songs as well.

And while we’re on the topic of Mary Timony, here’s a bonus video of “Honeycomb” by Helium from back in 1995 which was filmed in Jamaica Plain.

Book Review: Be there now : travel stories from around the world

Editor: Mike O’Mary
Title:Be there now : travel stories from around the world
Publication Info: Dream of Things, 2012
Summary/Review:

This book collects very brief essays that capture a moment of a travel experience.  It’s interesting idea but a lot of the stories come out vapid and are not at all transcendent.  It’s a quick read, though, and a handful of stories stand out such as: volunteers helping sea turtles lay their eggs in Costa Rica ( A Trembling Voice by Frank Izaguirr), a blind man visiting mountain gorillas in Rwanda (In the Footsteps of Fossey by Irene Morse), and a writer exploring the world through Google Maps (Virtual Travel by Trendle Ellwood).  The book kind of feels the first part of a contest in which the authors of the top stories should be awarded with a chance to publish longer stories of their experiences.

Recommended booksThere’s No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure by Doug Lansky
Rating: **

Book Review: Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

Author:Thomas Frank
Narrator: Thomas Frank
Title: Pity the Billionaire 
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio, 2012
ISBN: 9781427223128
Previous books read by the same authorWhat’s the Matter With Kansas?
Summary/Review:

Thomas Frank explores the ways in which the crash of 2008 and ensuing great recession failed to lead to a populist revolt against capitalists nor for greater government intervention into the economy, as it has in past recessions.  In fact, we got the Tea Party instead where the government was blamed for over-regulating business and banking instead.  Frank examines the common explanations for the rise of the Tea Party, dismisses them, and proposes the long growing movement that paints capitalists as victims of government overreach drawing from the works of neoliberal economists and Ayn Rand.  It’s all very interesting, and well-composed, although nothing I’ve not read before.  My favorite part of the book turned out to be the last chapter where Thomas Frank condemns the Democratic Party for failing to have any populist ideology to counter the right, nor drawing on what made them successful in past recessions, while at the same time maintaining cozy relations with Big Business.  The Democrats failure to act on the historic principles of their party makes it somewhat plausible that they can be blamed for being affiliated with the banks that bankrupted the country while at the same time too strictly regulating those banks.

Recommended books:  The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History by Jill Lepore, and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston.
Rating: ***1/2

Beer Review: Ommegang Rare Vos

Beer: Rare Vos
Brewer: Brewery Ommegang
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.8 of 10)

Comments: A yummy beer enjoyed on draft at the Doubleday Cafe in Cooperstown, NY.  A golden amber brew with a floral aroma, the beer has a bready, malt flavor with spices and hints of fruit, like apricot.  A very well-crafted and quaffable beer with ineffable qualities.

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Beer Review: Yuengling Traditional Lager

Beer: Yuengling Traditional Lager
Brewer: Yuengling Brewery
Source: Draft
Rating: * (5.2 of 10)
Comments: Yuengling has long been a sentimental favorite.  First, the Yuengling Brewery is based in the same Pennsylvania county where by grandparents lived when I was a child.  Second, when I came of age in Virginia and began drinking beer regularly, Yuengling was a standard.  I’ve missed it since I moved to Massachusetts and was happy to see it reintroduced to the commonwealth this year.  So, recently when a friend and I went to a swanky bar in the South End, I saw that Yuengling was on tap (and furthermore was the only reasonably priced beer on tap).  And …. it wasn’t as good as I remembered.  The flavor isn’t strong and the aroma is tad skunky.  That being said, for the price it’s a decent quaff on a hot day.  So, I’ll add this back to my list of cheap beer standbys.

Book Review: Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya

Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Honduras
Author: Horacio Castellanos Moya
Translator: Katherine Silver
Title:Senselessness
Publication Info: New York : New Directions, 2008.
ISBN: 9780811217071
Summary/Review:

This short novel depicts the narrator as a man in exile hired to edit testimonies of indigenous people who’ve survived torture and slaughter at the hands of the military regime.  His employer is the local archdiocese of the Catholic church whom he works for despite being an atheist with a particular hatred for the Catholic church.  The narrator finds himself haunted by phrases that jump out at him from the testimonies.  This is all beautifully-written and haunting.

Unfortunately, this novel has a serious unsympathetic narrator problem.  The majority of the text is spent with him attempting to satisfy his sexual longings with a pair of women, and then griping when he’s not sated as desired.  The lechery and misogyny page after page is hard to bear.  Most disturbing of all, and I may be reading this wrong, the narrator begins to see his “suffering” as equivalent to that he reads about in the testimonies, as he descends into a state of paranoia.  Adding to my difficulty in reading this book are long sentences in lengthy paragraphs.

So there you have it, a grim novel about a loathsome protagonist in a world of horror.
Recommended booksI, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman In Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu
Rating: *1/2

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