Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee’

This Is Not A Book Review

August 7, 2013

IWearTheBlackHat

It’s always been extremely difficult for me to write book reviews, which is why I’ve never really done one. I’ve always considered the process of critiquing a work consisting of tens of thousands of words as quite a daunting task, specifically if I want to say something negative. After all, throughout my life I can honestly say that I haven’t really read a whole lot of bad books. And why is that? Am I just constantly picking well-written, entertaining, and informative pieces of literature? Probably not. However, I do have an idea.

In short, my theory is that when it comes to anything artistic; the more time you invest into experiencing it, the higher the probability that you will enjoy it.

For example, things like songs and paintings are at the bottom of the list. We find it quite easy to hear a song for 30 seconds or view a painting with a glance and quickly make the decision as to whether or not we like it. This is why, no matter what your taste, there’s most likely a plethora of songs and/or pieces of art that you just don’t care for.

Hovering in the middle of the spectrums are things like films and plays. We allow these pieces, which typically range from 30 minutes to a couple hours, more time to captivate us. And with this added time comes a higher chance that the film or play will grab your attention and allow you to enjoy it. I’m sure that everyone has certain films that they don’t like, but I’d be willing to bet that the percentage of movies you hate is significantly lower than the percentage of songs you hate.

And then, of course, we have books at the top of the list. Even if it’s a short read, we still invest so much time into a book that often we just can’t allow ourselves to hate it. Because hating it is admitting that all of the time spent reading it was time wasted. And when combining that with the stigma that reading a book is somehow superior to listening to music or seeing a film, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to admit that not all books are great.

It is because of the reasons above that I will not review Chuck Klosterman’s latest book, I Wear the Black Hat. Instead, I will critique his in-store book signing appearance in Milwaukee a few weeks ago.

For those who do not know, Chuck Klosterman is the only author walking the planet that I pay a significant amount of attention to. I’ve read 7 of his 8 books, dozens of articles he’s written for Grantland, and even some of the pieces he’s done as The Ethicist for the NY Times. This recent in-store signing was also not the first time I had seen Mr. Klosterman make an appearance in a Milwaukee bookstore, so I knew what to expect.

His appearances usually begin with a reading from his new book, which usually is only about 15 minutes or so. After that he answers questions (about absolutely anything) for about an hour and a half. Then, a receiving line is formed where everyone can have a few seconds to chat with Mr. Klosterman and get their book signed. I attended the event, did not ask any questions, and of course had an awkward wordless moment with the author as he signed my copy. Everything seemed pretty normal, but then I started reading the book.

I Wear the Black Hat is basically 200 pages of Chuck Klosterman analyzing the concept of villains in modern society, using examples ranging from The Eagles to O.J. Simpson to Andrew Dice Clay. If you’re familiar with any of Klosterman’s other books, there’s really no reason you wouldn’t enjoy this one. But like I said earlier, this is not a book review.

About two days after buying the book, I realized I was already about 75 pages in (which is extremely fast for me). A few days later I was hitting page 150. Everything seemed fine until I hit the one week mark. I had gotten to the last chapter of the book and come to a terrible realization:

The reading that Chuck Klosterman had done in the store was, verbatim, the last chapter of his book in its entirety.

Now I know that I Wear the Black Hat is not a work of fiction. I know there’s not going to be any kind of a Sixth Sense “Holy Fuck” moment. I also realize that the final chapter of the book serves as a good “in summation” type piece that even name drops the book’s title. But come on, man! It’s the last chapter! No matter what the subject matter of any book, I always look forward to reading the last few pages and seeing how the author goes about putting a lid on everything. And I honestly felt, in a small way, that that was taken from me.

So for as entertaining and engaging as Chuck Klosterman was at his appearance to promote I Wear the Black Hat, I must say I was a little retrospectively disappointed.

This was not a book review.

Review: Knife – Blackmale

July 31, 2013

blackmalecover

A few weeks ago (July 12th to be exact) after pre-gaming at my apartment, my wife Jackie and friend Kluck decided to wet our whistles at the local watering hole. As drinks continued to flow, my demeanor slowly but steadily improved. Before long, I realized that this would be one of those enchanted evenings where that magical combination of Pabst and Jameson transforms my normally awkward self into a social butterfly. My wife, who quickly assessed the situation and recognized the rarity of this occurrence, suggested we go check out a hip hop show at another bar. “Let’s go,” I said. At this point, I probably could’ve turned an infant’s funeral into a good time.

So off we went, trekking on foot about a half-mile down the road on a beautiful summer night to the Highbury. I walked in, and before I could run to the bar for another drink, my attention was immediately grabbed by the music.

On any other night, I probably would not have enjoyed myself as much as I did on this particular evening. My natural behavior at just about any show is to find a place in the back and bob my head, most likely in an uncoordinated manner. However, the music coming out the speakers and the booze in my belly created the perfect storm of awesomeness. The stars simply aligned and for one wonderful hour, I simply didn’t care how white I probably looked.

The rapper on stage, known simply as Knife, sounded way too talented to be performing at a shitty little soccer-themed bar in Wisconsin. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t seen a hip hop show in a place like this since I saw KRS-One a decade ago, but it sounded amazing. He even threw out a freestyle for a few minutes, rapping about whatever items were handed to him by the crowd.

After the show, I talked to Knife briefly and decided to forgo any future alcoholic beverages (like I really needed them at that point) and use the last of my cash to pick up his CD, Blackmale. I walked (i.e. stumbled) home and passed the fuck out, subsequently forgetting that I had even the bought the album.

So Last Saturday night, as I got ready to take a shower before bed (because I was back to my normal introverted self), I stumbled across Blackmale and decided to finally give it a listen. As it turns out, even a completely obliterated James knows good shit when he hears it. There’s even a track on the album that samples the “bass battle” bass-line from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (underrated movie, by the way). So do yourself and favor and check this guy out.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you thinking, “Why the fuck should I buy this album. You really didn’t tell me anything about how it sounds?“ Well, to that I will leave you with the wise words of Pickles The Drummer from Dethklok:

“Talking about music is like painting about farting.”

You’re Next, A-Rod

July 23, 2013

Ryan-Braun

Just in case you were holding out hope for a late-season Brewers playoff push, Major League Baseball slapped a 65 game suspension on Ryan Braun and all but destroyed any dreams Milwaukee fans had of seeing some October baseball in the Brew City.

When I first learned of Braun’s suspension yesterday, the first thing I did was check an old post I did about a year and a half ago when he became the first MLB player to successfully appeal a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. I was sure I had written something stupid and would be forced to eat crow based on whatever my views were at the time. Surprisingly though, I pretty much feel the same way I did back in February of 2012.

There is however one exception: I am actually more proud of Ryan Braun now than I was then.

Let’s face the facts here. When Braun successfully appealed the suspension last year, he pissed off a lot people; specifically the league executives. Major League Baseball does not want to look bad, and I’d be willing to bet all of Brauny’s forfeited income that the League has been on him like stink on shit for the past 18 months, just waiting for him to fuck up.

And on top of MLB being pissed, the fans were not too happy with him either. Even here in Milwaukee, most Brewers fans at the very least had some suspicions as to whether or not Braun really passed his drug test for PEDs last year. Most of us were all but certain that his appeal was granted on a technicality. I can’t speak for everyone else, but to me it felt like when the cashier gives me too much change and I decide to say nothing. It felt dirty.

So now Ryan Braun finds himself in a scenario that has seemingly been in the making for quite some time. Major League Baseball has suspended Ryan Braun for the rest of the season, and Braun has accepted it. And this is why I’m slightly proud of him.

Now don’t get me wrong, Ryan Braun cheated and completely deserves his suspension and the loss of pay that comes with it (and I would have no issue with the League taking his MVP award away). Basically, He fucked up royally. Uncharacteristically however, he’s accepting his punishment. And unfortunately this is so outside the norm in regard to pro baseball players that sadly I have no choice but to give a little credit to a ballplayer who actually takes responsibility for his actions.

For once, and quite possibly the first time in his career, Ryan Braun did not think of himself first. He could’ve appealed the decision and denied everything. The league would’ve then presented a mountain of evidence against him. Then, after weeks and/or months of litigation, a suspension encompassing a good chunk (if not all) of next season would’ve been handed down. And at the end of day, Braun would have only his own word (which no one would believe) to fall back on. But instead of doing that, he admitted guilt (which is seemingly unheard of) and decided to take his suspension immediately; hopefully giving himself and his team a fresh start next year (because realistically, this season is over for the Brewers, currently at 41-57). My only hope now is that A-Rod goes the “deny, deny, deny” route, ‘cause it’ll only make Braun look better.

So thanks Ryan Braun. You (kind of sort of but not really) did the right thing.