Thursday, November 30, 2006

Eye Candy

I usually spend 1-2 hours a day working on this site, the first 15-20 minutes of which are spent searching the net for pictures of dudes to put up. If you call that "working", that is.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Music

Let me preface my reviews by pointing out that music is kind of hard to describe by writing about it. After you've read my comments about any of the albums on this thing, you can click on the picture to hear clips at Bn.com. I'm not trying to sell you anything, I just think it's cool: to be one click away from hearing the song. OK, enough chit-chat.

Queer as Folk Soundtrack, Various Artists
$10.78 at Bn.com UPC: 090266376926
From the hit tv-series on Showtime that was good for two seasons but on the air for five. The songs on this one, affordable cd are just unstoppable. The QAF theme song, "Dive in the Pool", is great for the gym or running, and there's a remix of "Let's Hear It For the Boy" that's just about the ultimate dance song. "Proud" is sort of unique and touching, and "High School Confidential" always makes me smile. We gays know great music, and the guys from Club Babylon are no exception. Even if you've never seen or heard of the tv show, this is a good choice. Party time!
A Posteriori, by Enigma
$17.08 at Bn.com UPC: 094636999425
Enigma is famous for albums that sound the same from beginning to end. That's not a bad thing, it's just very chill. The new mixes with the classical as chanting monks are set to a computer-generated techno beat. Apparently they're incredibly popular in Europe, only marginally so here in the U.S. (so everyone on your block won't have it). The best way to describe it is that it sounds distinctive and original, yet it's mild enough for absolutely anyone to enjoy. Expect to hear "This cd is really good! What is it?"

X&Y
, by Coldplay
$15.18 at Bn.com UPC: 724347478628
Considered an "indie" band until the release of this record, Coldplay combines retro-80s punk with a new age, sort of techno sound. Like Enigma, it's an eerie and pleasant sound. This was probably the most popular record during the summer of '05, and for me it brings back fond memories. This is a good cd to pop in when you have company over before going out: it adds atmosphere without being overpowering. Like vanilla ice cream, not your favorite all the time, but good if you want everyone to be satisfied.
Winter Child, by Matt Duke
$11.98 at Bn.com UPC: 880794006217
At first it comes across as typical singer-songwriter fare, but Matt has a pleasant, very masculine sounding voice, and his lyrics are surprisingly complex. When seen live, I'm sure he connects with his audience: I almost feel like he's in the room when I have the cd on. Sensitive and honest, yet at the same time upbeat and kind of rockin'. Good for the dudes, even better for the ladies. Plus he's not hard on the eyes.

Eye Candy







Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Books

I recommend all the books you see up here. These are a few of my favorites, though, and none of them are hard to get into at all. If you're looking to pick something up that'll get you into reading, please, I implore you! Start here:

* <-----------> ** <-----------> *** <-----------> **** <----------> *****
Easy - - Pretty Easy - - Moderate - - Pretty Challenging - - Challenging

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
$13.45 at Bn.com ISBN: 0316776963
* (easy)
In part one, Sedaris tells a series of stories from his yout
h and adulthood. They seem inane to describe: being singled out for speech-therapy as a child, forced to take unwanted music lessons: the sorts of things that could happen to anyone, but told with such humor and self-effacing charm. One chapter where Sedaris is caught in the bathroom at a party with a giant poop in the toilet (not his) had me laughing out loud like a mental patient. Part two is the story of his move to France with his lover, and the foibles of being an American abroad: learning a new language and adapting to French customs. Hilarious at times, but really interesting at all times.
The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman et. al
$17.99 at Bn.com ISBN: 1563890119
* (easy)
This one is actually a comic book, or "graphic novel" as they call them now. There's certainly nothing funny about it. In this first part in a series, the King of Dreams is kidnapped and imprisoned, causing a wave of nightmares, insomniacs, and comatose around the world. His struggle to break free and rebuild his kingdom involves a trip to hell to battle demons, a showdown with an escaped madman, and a touching reunion with his sister, Death. If that doesn't sound interesting enough on its own, the artwork is knock-out as well. Cree
py, disturbing, and suspenseful.
Fast Food Nation
, by Eric Schlosser
$13.45 at Bn.com
ISBN: 0060838582
*** (moderate)
Fast food from a variety of different angles. This is not just about how they get the meat for the hamburgers (although it is in there). Schlosser also describes the marketing campaigns, the artificial-flavor industry, even describes a day in the life of a cashier in a McDonald's store. This isn't the sort of thing that grosses you out until you don't want a value meal anymore: that'd be too easy. This is a fascinating piece of investigative reporting into restaurants you probably eat in all the time.
Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
$11.70 at Bn.com ISBN: 0805063897
** (pretty easy)
Another reporter wrote this one. Barbara is a single woman in her mid-forties who goes undercover as a low-skill worker trying to make it on a series of minimum-wage jobs. She works as a waitress, a cleaning lady, and even in Wal-Mart, and describes her experiences trying to find a place to live under the poverty line. Millions of Americans live like this every day. Many of them can't even afford computers with Internet access. This is their story.

Eye Candy














Eye Candy






Monday, November 27, 2006

Books

Biographies have always been a favorite of mine. I learn a lot from them, but there's still enough of a story to keep it interesting. Here are a few good biographies on ancient and medieval figures: two men and seven women.

* <-----------> ** <-----------> *** <-----------> **** <----------> *****
Easy - - Pretty Easy - - Moderate - - Pretty Challenging - - Challenging

Theodora: Empress of Byzantium, by Paolo Cesaretti
*** (moderate)
$27.50 at Bn.com ISBN: 0865652376
She wasn't born an empress: she was the youngest of three daughters of an animal tamer who d
ied when she was young. She and her sisters had to work as actresses, and probably as prostitutes to survive, a reputation which would follow her for decades. She got her "big break" when she met a Carthaginian millionaire named Hecebolus, who hired her as a courtesan and brought her to Carthage (on the coast of modern Algeria). It didn't pan out, and he fired her. So stranded on the African coast with no money, she didn't know anyone, and she didn't speak their language; from this unlikely situation arose one of the greatest female rulers of all time.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir
$13.50 at Bn.com ISBN: 0802136834
*** (moderate)
Early in his reign, H
enry was given honors by the Pope as defender of the Catholic Church. By the end, he left the church fragmented forever. But this fun to read work barely concerns Henry it all, focusing almost entirely on the women in his life, two of whom he beheaded. Katherine of Aragon, his first, has a story as thrilling as Theodora's: sent to England from Spain to marry, her first husband dies and leaves her in poverty. Her second marriage, to Henry, seems like happily-ever-after, until he meets Anne Boelyn and decides that "til death do us part" doesn't need to apply to royalty. Six fascinating ladies who all handle the same man in different ways. Anne of Cleves is my favorite: she takes the money and runs. You go, girl!
Nero, by Richard Holland
$11.99 at Bn.com ISBN: 075092876X
** (pretty easy)
One of the most maligned politicians in history, depicted as a megalomaniac and a brutal tyrant. But how true are these images? He became emperor of Rome when he was sixteen. At first, everything was terrific while he let his chief advisors Burrus and Seneca run the government and pursued a life of leisure. But when Burrus died and Seneca retired, an indulged madman finds himself in control. The man who killed his wife, his mother, and w
ho began the persecution of the Christians comes to light in a story that reads as easily as a novel.
Charlemagne, by Derek Wilson
$26.00 at Bn.com ISBN: 0385516703
**** (pretty challenging)
Was he an illiterate warlord, or an unappreciated genius? The leader who unified France, creating the largest empire in Europe since the fall of Rome, but who never learned to write and whose nation would prove as fleeting as it was impressive. Partly a biography and partly an overview of life in the ninth century, this is a fascinating and thorough look at one of the towering figures of the middle ages, and it manages to hit its target in under 300 pages.

Movies

Like most guys my age, I'm a big fan of animation. Watching cartoons seems to be something I never outgrow.
Triplets of Belleville
$22.48 at Bn.com UPC: 043396032316
Not a word of dialogue in this trippy, imaginative production, just jazz music and lots of physical comedy. The story is a bit off-the-wall, and the animation seems a bit crude (it was produced after the advent of CGI, yet the artists chose to draw this by hand to give it a vintage feel). You'll be so
engrossed by the dream-like fantasy the artists created that the lack of a story will totally pass you by. Brainier and more creative by far than most cartoon fare.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
$12.98 at Bn.com UPC:
097363368243
You may know South Park from the animated series on Comedy Central, featuring four elementary-school kids animated Matisse style: with cut out pieces of construction paper. My first impression was that the humor was entirely juvenile. This turned out to be mistaken, a clever story develops that touches on racism, free-speech, and is loaded with peppery, irreverent songs. OK, some of the jokes are a bit
insensitive, but have a sense of humor! Cute as a Disney flick but most definitely not for kids!
Aladdin
$26.98 at Bn.com UPC: 786936223996
Of all the Disney movies (and there are, in my opinion, a lot of good ones) this is my favorite. The story about a young diamond in the rough who falls for a headstrong princess is cute enough, but the show gets stolen by Robin Williams as the wacky genie, changing into a million different shapes in the course of the film. This is why animation was invented. A couple other characters are charming as well: Abu, Aladdin's sidekick monkey, the silent Magic Carpet, even Jasmine's befuddled father, the Sultan of Agrabah. A feel-good story with a knock-em-dead cast and a few likable songs. If you don't like this movie, there's simply no pleasing you.
Finding Nemo
$23.98 at Bn.com UPC: 786936215595
The beautiful under-sea artwork makes this film about a young fish kidnapped and trapped in a bowl. Much of it is a funny adventure, but Nemo trapped and lonely in a dentist's office bowl casts a dark shadow over the gaiety. Al Brooks, a comedy legend, heads the cast with Ellen Degeneres as a forgetful tang providing some laughs. Tender when it needs to be, harsh and unforgiving as well: this CGI feature by the makers of Toy Story is also, surely, not just for kids.

Eye Candy






Saturday, November 25, 2006

Music

A few cds. These are what I would call "timeless". Usually when I buy a cd, I listen to it a lot for about two weeks, then it goes into a pile somewhere and almost never gets played again. It's only occasionally you get a cd where 1.) you like every song, not just one or two and 2.) you can enjoy it for years without getting tired of it. If that's what you're looking for, here you go...
The Immaculate Collection, by Madonna
$18.98 at Bn.com UPC: 075992644020
The most popular female vocalist of the past twenty years presents an unstoppable "best of" album. So many good so
ngs here: Borderline, Crazy for You (although this one sounds like it belongs at a high school dance), Vogue, Material Girl. Not a loser in the bunch. And Madonna's style is such a crowd-pleaser that, although she was controversial about twenty years ago, most people now would be happy to hear her on.
The Best of Morrissey, by Morrissey
$11.98 at Bn.com UPC: 081227837525
The ex-lead singer from the Smiths after starting a solo career. He's the perfect pop-rock anti-hero, with an eerie, other-worldly voice. The lyrics are usually a bit dark (the Smiths were often labelled "depressing"), but the tunes are so captivating you'll hardly have time to feel down. "Every Day is Like Sunday" is my personal favorite.
Blonde on Blonde, by Bob Dylan
$12.58 at Bn.com UPC: 827969240021
Authentic American music straight out of the 60s but without the self-righteousness of most "hippie" music. Dylan proved you could be a successful musician without having a singing voice that was beautiful by traditional standards. With only his own guitar and harmonica as accompaniment, this cd is unpretentious, sincere, and truly touching. Loaded with songs which have since become American standards, kinda folk and kinda blues at the same time.
The Lion King, Original Broadway Cast
$16.13 at Bn.com UPC: 050086080274
Even if you're not normally into show-tunes or Disney music, give this one a try. It rarely gets as campy as most musicals, and a lot of the songs have a terrific international flare. The favorites from the movie are still here, along with a bunch of new songs written mostly to make the show more appealing to adults. For years it was the hottest show on Broadway, an unforgettable experience, and undeniably a class act.