Month: July 2011

Check It Out Blog

LISTS: A Cyberpunk Primer

Neuromancer book coverCyberpunk is a genre that explores a not-so-distant future where man and machine have finally fused. Remember how Neo can plug a computer into the back of his head in The Matrix? Like that, but MORESO! Expect gritty, almost noir tones and sci-fi plot lines with emphasis on access to information, underground subcultures and fighting “The Man” (who is usually a giant, evil corporation).

Click here for cyberpunk books, movies and music.

Music To Open Your Mind To

Bible of Dreams album coverJuno Reactor’s Bible of Dreams makes you feel like you’ve entered The Matrix, or better yet, a trippy, space western – think Firefly, but if Hunter S. Thompson wrote it in one of his more mescaline-induced, philosophical moods with the assistance of Ennio Morricone. Bible of Dreams is globally-influenced, hypnotic trance that works equally well on the dance floor as it does on soundtracks. Don’t be fooled by the mellow opening minutes of “Jardia de Cecile.” The drums kick in about half way through this first track and only get steadier and heavier throughout the album. Then tribal chanting and ethereal samples bring an expansive spirituality, while a strong bassline anchors Bible of Dreams to this mortal coil.

Larry’s Pick: Battle Cry of Freedom

Larry Staff picks photoBattle Cry of Freedom
describes the political and social environment that led to the Civil War. A glimpse into the human experience of both soldiers and civilians adds greater depth to the flowing, easy-to-follow prose. Considering the writing style and the scholarship, it is no wonder that James M. McPherson won a Pulitzer Prize for this book.

Hardly Business As Usual

Dressmaker of Khair Khana book coverIn times of war, we often examine the bravery of men and the tragedy of women.  Those are powerful stories, but they aren’t the only ones deserving to be told.  What of the women who rise above tragedy and meet the challenge of supporting their families?  Journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon invested three years in order to share one family’s enterprise and heroism under Taliban rule in The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.  This is the true story of a determined teenager who found a way not only to provide for her own family but also to enable other women to put food on their tables.  Sarah Zimmerman narrates with an effortless skill that conveys danger, zeal, and remarkable accomplishment.

Outlander Completists, Rejoice!

Exile book coverJamie Fraser is a sexy Scotsman who millions of people have fallen in love with via Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling, time-travel adventure, Outlander. Outlander is the story of Claire Randall, a WWII Army nurse who is propelled back in time to 18th century Scotland. While Claire attempts to find a way back home, she falls in love with the kilt-clad, gun-toting Fraser. The Exile is Gabaldon’s first attempt at a graphic novel, and it explores Outlander from Jamie’s point of view. Hoang Nguyen beautifully illustrates Jamie and Claire’s explicit exploits, but be warned – the graphic novel does cut short Gabaldon’s exposition, and readers who haven’t experienced the novel might get confused by the graphic novel’s shortened plot.

Cynthia’s Pick: 49 Up

Cynthia staff picks photo“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Every seven years since 1964, the Up Series revisits a socially diverse group of British men and women. We watch as precocious seven year olds morph into awkward teenagers, ambitious or struggling young adults, and into middle age with 2005’s 49 Up.

Friends and Family

Another Year DVD coverFrom the moment you meet the delightful Tom and Gerri, you will immediately want to be their friend.  Smart, affectionate, warm, and witty, they share a relationship that is marked by mutual respect and generosity.  Others notice, too, which is why they’ve become a surrogate family for a misfit or two.  They live out friendship in a way that demonstrates support and acceptance, even when the person(s) in question would exhaust anyone else.  In Another Year, director Mike Leigh delivers an honest portrait of ordinary people who just want to be happy.  Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, and Lesley Manville twinkle as their characters experience the comedy and drama of four memorable seasons.

LISTS: The Jazz Trumpet

Dizzy's Diamonds album coverSome of the greatest jazz musicians of all time were trumpeters. The effects of Miles Davis, Satchmo and Dizzy Gillespie have rippled through not just the jazz pond, but all of popular music.

To hear some of the finest jazz trumpeters that ever lived, click here.

A Swift Read About A High-Lonesome Family

Family Tradition book coverHank Williams Jr. once said of his father, “My daddy, he was somewhere between God and John Wayne.” And it’s still true. Hank Williams is considered the be-all, end-all, heartbroken drifter of country. Hank’s past is full of hard work, substance abuse and some of the best country music ever made. This pattern would be repeated by his son, Hank Williams Jr., and his grandson, Hank III. In Family Tradition:  Three Generations of Hank Williams, Susan Masino tells the history of one the most well-known families in American music. Fans of Hank III will be especially pleased by Masino’s access to his never-been-told side of the story.