2000, Music

Sing When You’re Winning (2000) by Robbie Williams

It is one of the strangest musical careers of our time, that Robbie Williams was perhaps the biggest star in the UK, for like nearly a decade, and was just a guy with some minor hits in North America. It’s something that has happened over and over and over again – with British stars failing …

2000, Music

The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book (2000) by Wyclef Jean

Why are Wyclef’s albums so fucking long? I don’t know the answer but it feels like it’s not just a case of the ’90s album bloat. Here is a man with a lot of pretty decent material (arguably more than on his debut) who doesn’t seem to know how to present it to the world. …

1995, Music

Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot (1995) by Sparklehorse

My memory of Good Morning Spider, the only Sparklehorse record I’ve heard before this one, is that it was pretty harrowing stuff. That makes sense, given that part of it is about an overdose. But I guess I was expecting something similar. And though this record definitely has a “sad” vibe at times, I don’t …

1995, Music

Garbage (1995)

As I have said way too many times, I do not like post grunge. Usually, post grunge takes something I like and basically ruins it. However, Garbage avoid many of the most irritating aspects of post grunge, if you can even classify Garbage as post grunge. (In fact, that false categorization may explain why I …

1995, Music

Ben Folds Five (1995)

At some point during the last 30 or so years before this album’s release, the piano stopped being a rock instrument. That’s particularly weird given its primary in the creation of rock and roll, as it was piano and saxophone, before electric guitar, that helped create what became rock and roll (in part because they …

1984, 1994, 2007, Books, Non-Fiction

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984, 1994, 2007) by Robert Cialdini

When this book was published in 1984, it was probably one-of-a-kind, and an absolute must-read. A pop psychology treatment on how businesses (and con men) manipulate us into buying things we don’t want, there was probably not much else out there like it. It’s a landmark and it was likely essential reading pre-internet.

2008, Movies

Entre les murs aka The Class (2008, Laurent Cantet)

This is a French version of the “How can I reach these kids?!?!” genre, a genre I really, really dislike. But, I must say, this is a pretty excellent variation in part because it avoids most of the pitfalls of the American style.

1990, Music

No Fences (1990) by Garth Brooks

I honestly thought Garth Brooks was a songwriter. I have a memory of channel-surfing and finding a show on which he and some other country songwriters were discussing songs they wrote. So I just assumed he wrote all or most of his material. Going by this album, his breakout hit, he doesn’t. (He co-writes 4 …

1990, Music

Persistence of Time (1990) by Anthrax

I have heard so much about Anthrax but somehow never heard them until today. I still remember reading about their debut in my Billboard book when I was a kid (or a tween), about how it was the fastest metal album ever (supposedly…according to Billboard) and not even knowing what metal was, just sort of …

1990, Music

Facelift (1990) by Alice In Chains

Alice in Chains are, to me, the least immediately appealing of the big Seattle grunge bands. I think that’s because they have the least catchy songs – though Cantrell is a good songwriter he is not necessarily a writer of particularly catchy songs. Though I do wonder how much of my experience of this band …

1990, Music

World Clique (1990) by Deee-Lite

Like you, I have heard “Groove Is In the Heart” a thousand times. Whether I want to or not, I know basically every note. But, unlike some (most?) of the people who bought this album I have never been a fan of dance music. And to the extent that I am welcoming of dance music, …

1985, Music

The Head on the Door (1985) by The Cure

My general appreciation of The Cure keeps running into problems. The problem is that I had their singles collections for years and listened to them fairly regularly but didn’t get around to their albums until recently. And now I listen to them haphazardly: one from the early ’80s here, one from the mid ’80s there, …

1980, Music

Give Me the Night (1980) by George Benson

Who is this album for, exactly? Is it for fans of scat singing? Is it for fans of smooth soul? Is it for fans of soul jazz? Is it not stupid to assume those groups of people overlap? Apparently it’s not as this album topped both the Soul and Jazz charts (ugh) and went to …

1975, Music

Atlantic Crossing (1975) by Rod Stewart

When going through Stewart’s solo early solo records I’m always wary that maybe this one will be the one in which he abandons his early sound for the money-chasing of his later career. But the truth is never so straight-forward and so I find myself listening to a record that manages to both sound close …

1970, Music

Spirit in the Dark (1970) by Aretha Franklin

This is particularly bluesy Aretha record, at least based on my very slight knowledge of her catalogue. Though it produced two hits, it infamously did relatively poorly as an album and, listening to it, it’s fairly easy to see why.

1970, Music

Close to You (1970) by Carpenters

I know the Carpenters by reputation and a few of their hits, only. The title track and a few other songs of theirs were big enough to find their way into pop culture. (For example, the title track has been used on The Simpsons.) Rockist orthodoxy has it that they are not very good – …

1965, Music

I Ain’t Marching Anymore (1965) by Phil Ochs

I came to Phil Ochs late, only because of the recommendation of a friend. (Thanks Derek!) Before that I had heard of his infamous live album, but that’s it. So this is my second Ochs album and, as usual, I am listening to his catalogue out of order. I mention all of this because my …

2017, Movies

La caméra de Claire (2017, Sang-soo Hong)

This is an extraordinarily slight film rendered sophisticated in the eyes of some by its unconventional narrative structure and the presence of Isabelle Huppert. Ever watch a critically acclaimed film where you wonder if the critics and you watched the same film? Well, it’s one of those.

2019, Movies

The Gentlemen (2019, Guy Ritchie)

Remember when Guy Ritchie was a fresh young director? Some people were (unfairly) calling him an English Tarantino. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels had to be sought out at the video store. Then he married Madonna and made some questionable film choices. Eventually he became one of the numerous indistinguishable blockerbuster filmmakers Hollywood goes …

1992, Books, Non-Fiction

A Practical Study of Argument (1992) by Trudy Govier

I’m still not quite sure this textbook found its way into my reading pile. My best guess is that it came from the trove from my former boss. (I can almost hear him quoting the book.) Regardless of where it came from, I really didn’t know what I was in for. I didn’t know, for …

2020, Personal

Invitation to submit your book to Netflix

As you may know, I am a published author. Three books to date, still working on that fourth. Every so often, somebody contacts me with the goal of getting me to pay them to do some useless service. This is an old scam which appeals to every author’s vanity. But I’ve seen it enough times …