Bläeckfisk is the Swedish translation for the word octopus. I am not Swedish, but I do own a lot of furniture from Sweden and I like octopuses while admiring their multi-tasking ability. I would like to travel to Sweden at some point, plus I think it is a pretty cool looking word. Anyhow, speaking of words, I guess you could say that is why we are here. Words are the foundation for way we try to wrap our thoughts around everything in the galaxy. The tendrils that lead to emotions and curiosity. I am not here to solve the mysteries of the universe, just to discuss words in general. Specifically words written by other people and have been printed off and slapped between two slices of thin card stock. Many of these sandwiches go on to bigger and better things, some bigger and better than others. So, I guess we will be talking about those as well. If you share an interest in words or enjoi seeing what they can look like in action....välkommen! (Swedish for welcome.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

B4: The Murder of Jim Fisk by H.W. Brands (206 pages)

"A gray blanket cloaks the trees of Montparnasse on a late autumn morning. Smoke from the coal fires that heat homes and shop along the narrow streets swirls upward to join the fog that congeals intermittently into drizzle. This part of Paris hides the sign of the Great Depression better than the blighted districts and tattered storefronts....."

Looking for a dash of tightly written tragic history from the Gilded Age? Check out this short read by H.W. Brands. Being a passionate paramour of history, I really admire Brands for this work and his conception of bringing little known American history tales to light. The first in a continuous series called The American Portraits, Brands tells the yarn of the notoriously haughty James "Diamond Jim" Fisk. As so eloquently put by the title, Jim meets an untimely, abrupt ending resulting from years of rowdy behind the scenes behavior regulating the Eerie Railroad Company. Set in the mid 1800's during a time when life in NYC was far from opulent, Jim Fisk was financially thriving. Gregariously bumbling around the town, Jim was both well know and well liked. Enter Josie Mansfield, showgirl extraordinaire. Commence downfall.

This book is worth mentioning due to the astute angle with which Brands writes from. While most historical books are verbose accounts, the author gets to point and recaps the little known story of Jim Fisk within the confides of 206 pages. Wealth, exuberance, scandal, moustaches and murder all grace the pages of this historical account. His documentation is both colorful and absorbing; I will be anxiously awaiting the next portrait in the series to be released.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

F3: Beginners-Directed by Mike Mills

We saw this flick last night and both my fiance and I loved it. For all the blow em up, high speed chase-animated-sequel based films that roll out of production studios for the summer, this film showcases all that is missing from movies today. While lacking exotic locations and CGI, this movie more than makes up for it in good old fashioned in depth storytelling. Less effects and better acting. Smaller budget and raw emotion. By stripping away all the bells and whistles that are so commonplace in movies today, Mills creates a beautiful, touching film that ambitiously takes on more than its share of historical and modern issues.

We follow the life of Oliver; a dry humored, quirky graphic design artist of sorts (most likely a reflection of director Mike Mills) and his spiderweb of relationships. His father Hal, played by the legendary Christopher Plummer, has revealed to him that after 44 years of being married that he in fact has always been gay. Just as Hal (75 years old now) begins to pursue this uncharted aspect of life, he get diagnosed with cancer. The outlook for Hal is grim and Oliver moves in with his father to help him pen his final chapter with the help of Hal's new boyfriend, Andy. With this backdrop, the rest of the film follows Oliver's new found struggles to connect to the rest of world following Hal's transition into the next plane of existence.

Flashing ahead to at a Halloween party that he has been dragged to, Oliver meets the equally idiosyncratic Anna-someone he is able to find comfort with along with that spark of passion that his life has been missing since his father's death. This movie is about relationships big and small, but along the way reminds us of how delicate life can be while at the same time lending focus to how prodigious life on the planet Earth really is. Mills masterly combines love, attachment, sadness, vandalization, reinvention and history in his best work to date. A marvelously vintage soundtrack rounds out what will probably be the best movie you will see all summer. The dry humor will make you laugh, the tender portrayal of Olivier's relationships might make you cry, but all in all this movie is not one that you should miss.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

B3: A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (334 pages)

I am not quite certain how books win the Pulitzer, or how a panel could possibly decide upon one winner each year, but I do know Josef Pulitzer was Hungarian. And a supporter of the Democratic party. And was someone who hated monstrously corrupt corporations. I know this because my father is from Hungary and we Hungarians tend to stick together. Or better yet, because a few years back I wanted to learn all about him and read as many Pulitzer Prize winners in one year that I could, only to feel like the books that had won the prestigious title were selected the same big, bad corrupt organizations that Josef so fiercely despised. Talk about irony.

"So acutely had he been dreading this encounter that he felt no real surprise at the staggering coincidence of its actually taking place."

Anyhow, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is pretty quick read, great for short attention span summer reading. We follow a handful of characters that all have some tie to the music industry. With each chapter, we follow a different character's perspective. Each of the characters are linked in some capacity (my streak of this genre marches on) and we follow them throughout their respective careers. Some are producers like the neurotic Bennie Salazar; who sprinkles flakes of pure gold into his coffee in an attempt to find reprieve from an ongoing battle of impotentic proportions. Others are musicians, spouses and sidekicks all searching for a way to stay on top of the peruvial ladder of success and prestige.

I did find this read to be enjoyable as Egan is a talented author. The structure of the book makes following the lives of each character easy and she does a nice job of helping the reader connect the dots along the way. One of the final chapters is laid out almost in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, detailing the connections within the life of dear Alison Blake. One of my favorite aspects of this book is meaning behind the title. I dig the metaphor of time being a "Goon Squad", as the idea of time catching up with all of our characters is really is essentially what this entire book is about. I have heard that HBO is converting the novel into a series, which should be interesting to check out. Maybe they should also consider a mini series on Josef Pulitzer.......I would be all over that.