Whilst I gear up for a tidal wave of Milam Activity (Milactivity, if you will), here is a little something to whet your collective appetites. One of the most frequent emails I get is a general request for recommendations: what books am I reading, what movies am I seeing, what music am I listening to, what Halloween candy am I stealing from my neighbor’s kitchen when they leave the back door unlocked, etc.
Now, I’m not one to prescribe tastes; I hate reading things like, “This movie WILL change your life” or “If you don’t like The Cure, you’re an idiot.” So we won’t do that here. But, some of you are asking in earnest, so I’m happy to share a handful of things that I have been enjoying recently. If you enjoy them, cool; if not, cool. But discussion never hurt nobody.
Except that guy from Live. “Look where all this talking got us babaaaay!”
Let’s move on…….
Confederates in the Attic, by Tony Horwitz
I picked this one off a recommendation by my trusted source and good friend, Ross. Horwitz takes his fascination with the Civil War–specifically the Confederate army–on the road, visiting landmarks and capitals in the South hoping they’ll illuminate his “dispatches from the unfinished Civil War.” The book is organized by his experience in each state, covering most of the Southeast. The result is an exceptionally well-researched and fair depiction (Connecticut-born but Virginia-residing Horwitz is clearly ambivalent about his adopted home) of the South in the mid 90’s. Too often he uses larger-than-life personalities as his “local case studies,” resulting in an occasionally extremist illustration. For example, not many middle-class Southerners are dealt with–mostly old-money Southern aristocracy or run-of-the-mill hillbillies are our guides. Still, the book is a worthwhile read for the Tennessee and Georgia chapters alone, which include an exceptional visit with Shelby Foote in Memphis and a well-done “search for Tara” among the Georgia backwoods.
I will leave it at this: maybe a handful of times in my life have I sat in a theater, watching a movie on opening weekend, and thought upon first viewing, “this is one of my favorite movies of all time.”
In a related story, I can’t get enough of these guys right now. Irish folk + punk rock = Dropkick Murphys. They’ve been making great music by this equation for many, many years now. And “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” is on The Departed‘s soundtrack. That’s two scoops of rad, folks.
What Would Tyler Durden Do is one of my favorite websites, and the sister site of well-known linkdump Gorillamask. It delivers up-to-the-minute Hollywood news/celebrity gossip through the best of all possible filters: degradation, sarcasm, and unmerciful ridicule. WWTDD is one of the most consistently funny websites I’ve seen. (Important: I wouldn’t recommend this site to kids, as some of the language/headlines are more “adult” in nature.) For example, in relation to a YouTube trailor for the new season of “24”:
“It would have been nice if Randy had explained to me that this was the trailer for season 6 of “24”. All he said in the email was “you have to see this”. Well I did and when I found out that today America is under siege and that the casualty estimate in St. Louis has risen to 112, it scared the hell out of me. It turns out this is some sort of TV show. Well that’s just great. I practically squeezed my Paddington bear to death. Then I dumped over my Arab neighbors trash cans and told him he’d never take me alive. Thanks a lot Randy. Stupid jerk.”
I can hear you at home, reading this, wondering aloud, “No duh, dillweed. Next you’re going to recommend The Bible and lemonade. These are gimmes.” Well, um, yes. With The Office, the question isn’t if it’s great, but how great it is and can be. This is the first show since Seinfeld that I’ve thought has a realistic shot of topping it. Friends was fun but essentially irrelevant, Arrested Development (though truly great) was likely too quirky and niche-oriented to ever enjoy that kind of mainstream ubersuccess. But The Office already has huge ratings, a devoted fanbase, and an impossibly high ceiling.
One thing The Office has over Seinfeld is a heart. Seinfeld pushed selfish, asocial behavior and cynicism to its absolute edge, and with hilarious and culturally significant results. But this limited its emotional spectrum. The Office occupies the same cockeyed comedic space, but can still run the gamut from cynical to sincere with poignance and facility without losing any of its edge and unpredictability. To my eye, this show has yet to really make a mistake, and it’s exciting to watch.
Quick Hits….Things I’m Also Loving These Days:
–Phil Levine. Poet laureate of the working class. Forty years of remarkable work.
–Tony Earley. As always.
–Teenage Fanclub, especially “Ain’t That Enough.”
—Cory Branan with the Thrift Store Cowboys. On tour now.
–The apple cider at Portland Brew here in Nashville. Best hot cider I’ve had this fall.
—Inside the Actor’s Studio. Still. I know. I don’t know what to tell you.
–The Thrills “One Horse Town.”
And, as always…..Michael Vick:
Nothing more to say about that.