Tuesday, September 11th

Get Jiro!

Given that the final season of No Reservations just started and featured Austin in the premiere episode, it seems like a good time to discuss Anthony Bourdain’s latest book. A departure from his previous works, Get Jiro! is a graphic novel.

Get Jiro!

Set in LA in the not-too-distant future, the city is a bleak place run by warring chefs who ruthlessly rule the city and all its food distribution. The story is a commentary on cookie-cutter restaurants, the idolization of chefs, obesity in America, the local and vegan movements, offal, and poor restaurant etiquette. It hits just about every hot foodie topic as readers navigate this world of extreme food culture.

Plus it’s got all the violence and nudity you’d expect from a graphic novel. In short, it’s fucking awesome. I can’t reveal too much about the plot, as it’s a short book and I hate to take away the joy of the little surprises. But I promise that you’ll laugh at the story and marvel at the art. It is simply a must read for any foodie.

Okay, one tiny spoiler: Someone gets beheaded for ordering a California Roll. How delightful! Here’s the page:

Get Jiro!

I know, right? Notice the blue tooth on the severed head. Ha!

So what did everyone think of Anthony Bourdain’s recent Austin show? It wasn’t his first visit, but it was a completely different take on the city. It showed the madness and hard-rocking hipsterdom of SXSW. I was surprised by some of the places he went (Quality Seafood) and completely unsurprised by others (Barley Swine.)

Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the book and Tony’s visit to Austin.

Friday, August 31st

Make it Work

We’re in the tenth season of Project Runway. After dedicating myself to this show for so many years, I thought I might take a break for a season. Then I saw a preview of the candy challenge and I was sucked right back in. I can’t resist watching designers cry over trying to make clothing out of licorice.

This season features all the requisite character types that we’ve come to expect.

The Arrogant One: Ven Budhu is undeniably talented and he knows it. Offering little in the way of personality, Ven is there to win not to make friends. He’ll likely be in the final three.

Ven Budhu

Most Likable: Buffi Jashanmal has her own funky style and a charming accent. Her self-deprecating humor won over the other designers, but sadly her talent wasn’t up to par. She’s already gone.

Buffi Jashanmal

Bitchiest Gay: Gunnar Deatherage is the youngest contestant and has ridden the waves of bitchiness further than I thought he could.

Gunnar Deatherage

The Weirdo: Kooan Kosuke is as weird as his hair. Sadly, he decided the competition wasn’t for him and he quit. I don’t think he had a shot of winning, but I would have liked to see him stick around longer.

Kooan KosukeLaughably Bad: Andrea Katz. Every season there’s a designer so terrible that you wonder how they made it on the show. Andrea earned the title this season. She also quit the show by stealing away in the middle of the night. That made for some good drama.

Andrea Katz

Fun Gay: Christopher Palu. The cast is filled with fun gays, but Christopher won me over with his Cher impersonation. He and Gunnar lock horns which provides some nice drama.

Christopher Palu

My choices for top three designers: In addition to Ven, I like Sonjia Williams and the oft overlooked Dmitry Sholokhov. All three are incredibly talented and I’d love to see a fashion week showdown. Sonjia’s personal style is my favorite on the show. Girlfriend rocks that blue hair with class.

Sonjia Williams

Dmitry Sholokov

The judges have really settled in a place of unified harmony.

After doing this for so many years they seem calm and all-knowing. It takes little banter to get to a place where they agree on winners and losers. Of course they only show a few minutes of the discussion, but in Tim Gunn’s book Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work, he reveals that the judging usually takes four to five hours. He also dishes dirt on former contestants, people in the fashion world, and random celebrities. While at times a little preachy about etiquette, the gossip is good and makes the book worth reading.

Are you watching the show this season? What do you think?

Thursday, August 16th

Ali in Wonderland

Another week, another celebrity memoir. I’m really enjoying my choice of books this summer. If you have any recommendations for my list, please leave me a comment.

Anyway, I love Alexandra Wentworth. Her show Headcase was one of my very favorites on Netflix streaming before it was cruelly taken away. If you haven’t seen her turn as a therapist to the stars, go get it and watch both seasons. It’s too good.

She is damn funny. So I was stoked to hear about her book and its silly cover.

Ali in Wonderland

Ali in Wonderland and Other Tall Tales was on my to-do list for several months now and I only recently remembered it. I had very high expectations because a) It was endorsed by Jerry Seinfeld and b) I’m assuming Ali’s husband George Stephanopoulos proofed it.

I expected it to be wildly funny, with stories of her days on In Living Color and playing Jerry’s girlfriend Schmoopie in the Soup Nazi episode on Seinfeld. And of course, I wanted to know all about life with George. These were mentioned in passing, but were hardly the focus of the book.

Instead, we learned about her privileged upbringing with subtle humor. Growing up in D.C. with influential parents, the reader is treated to tales of glamorous parties where she tap danced for Henry Kissinger. Her mother was Reagan’s social secretary and knew everyone. It’s a fascinating life that most of us cannot relate to.

We accompanied her to boarding school, her internship at London auction house Christie’s, and summers on the cape. When times were tough, the family sought refuge at The Four Seasons. The vacations, pastimes and life were all grand scale, but the funny stories about teenaged embarrassment, and sibling behavior was like any other family’s. Wentworth has a knack for writing with the casual wit of your favorite girlfriend. Plus, there’s enough George Stephanopoulos to please any Clintonista. Definitely worth a read.

I love you, Schmoopie.

Tuesday, August 7th

Diamond in the Rough

Shawn Colvin’s recently published memoir Diamond in the Rough is really meant for her fans. People that know her music will have a better appreciation for the book, as she goes into great detail about her songwriting and the many musicians she’s played with over the years. Most of these references went over my head, but I carried on because the book was well-written and Shawn is an Austin girl. She’s lived everywhere, but she makes it clear throughout the book that Austin has her heart.

Diamond in the Rough

Shawn’s life has not been easy. Despite her career’s longevity and triumphs, her struggles with substance abuse, eating disorders, self confidence, paranoia, anxiety and depression have overtaken her at various times. She doesn’t explore these issues too much. The book reads like the beginning of a confession, with the subject quickly changing her mind before it gets too real. This isn’t the type of rock-bottom, sad story, that prompts a step by step crawl back to the top; Shawn Colvin is the type of woman who would rather pour her heart and soul into a song, rather than to her best girlfriends or her therapist. Or her memoir. She simply states, I was a drunk, and moves on.

Rather than framing her story as success despite adversity, it’s a tale of musical evolution and the problems that arose along the way. If you are looking for a dramatic, voyeuristic peek into the darkest depths of a troubled life, this is not the book you want. If you want to see what goes on behind the curtains in the life of a musician, this is it. With a little Prozac and fashion mixed in for good measure.

Friday, July 13th

Guts

I picked up Kristen Johnston’s memoir at the library the other day, Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster. I must have missed her press tour because I didn’t even know she wrote a book. The cover caught my eye on an endcap and I’m glad I grabbed it.

Guts by Kristen Johnston

She starts out by spilling the beans that she’s an alcoholic and drug addict, and jokingly acknowledges that the last thing the world needs is another book from an addicted actress. I’ve always thought Kristen was hilarious, especially on 3rd Rock from the Sun, and she writes (no ghost writer!) exactly like she talks. Sarcastic, witty, off-color and self-deprecating.

I thought the title Guts was going to allude to her strength, or the guts it took to pick up her shambles of a life. No, it’s actually much more literal. Her constant abuse of pain killers and wine for so many years caused the lining of her intestines to weaken and in one unlucky moment, actually tear open, spilling the contents of her stomach…everywhere. This happened while she was doing a play in London. Most of the book chronicles her two months in the hospital, where her only comfort was her dear friend Mr. Morphine.

It’s a riveting, humorous and touching book with little self-pity or preaching. Less than 300 pages, it’s a one-day read. Celebrity memoirs can be a mixed bag, but this one was a nice surprise. Pick it up if you’re looking for a compelling beach read.

 

Friday, April 13th

The Casual Vacancy

Let’s start the countdown to J. K. Rowling’s next book, The Casual Vacancy.

 

hourglass

On September 27th, once again we will go crazy for one of her stories. Written for adults, I am no less excited than I was for each of the Harry Potters. A black comedy about a small English town at war with itself, the novel will be 480 pages of enjoyment, I suspect.

Rowling doesn’t need witches or wizards to create magic on a page. I am so excited to be immersed in another world of her creation and to experience the hype of another enormous best seller.

Thursday, February 9th

Happy Accidents

As promised, I read Jane Lynch’s book Happy Accidents. A true memoir, this is a life story, not a comedy book. Jane is naturally funny and that comes through in her writing, but the book is not laugh out loud.

One of the things I love about Jane Lynch is how self-deprecating she always is onscreen. She’s lived her life the same humble way, taking any and every role, many of which were intended for men. She’s played many a bit part, starred in commercials, done improv, plays, everything. Always happy to act, she was willing to take anything and never sought fame. She can’t deny her fame now, but is grateful that it didn’t happen earlier in life.

Jane addresses her alcoholism and homosexuality in such a casual and honest way, neither becomes the focal point of the book. She doesn’t cash in and make it a gay book or a book about addiction. I have to respect it, although I found myself craving a little more drama. But Jane isn’t looking for a pity party. She wasn’t a rock-bottom drunk, but had a Miller Lite problem. She sobered up at 31. She came out of the closet to an accepting family and that was that.

My favorite parts of the book were when Jane described her love of acting. Memorizing lines, interacting with other actors, getting her first agent. She’s a regular lady just describing a job she truly loves. No big whoop.

Where the book lost me was in the final chapters where she talks about Glee, her wife, and her life as it is now. Just too happy, without a moment of conflict. Not only does it seem less than honest, but it’s just….ZZZZZZZZZZ. Oh sorry, did I doze off? Yeah, it got boring at the end. I want to hear that Lea Michele or Chris Colfer acts like a bitch. No luck.

But it’s worth a read, especially if you love Jane Lynch.

Saturday, January 14th

Funny Ladies

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Mindy Kaling’s book and even longer since I’ve read Tina Fey’s, but I thought they were worth talking about. Have you read either of them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reason I’m comparing the two, rather than blogging about them individually is because I am lazy they have so much in common.

  1. They are women in comedy
  2. They write and star in hit shows
  3. …on NBC
  4. …that air on Thursday nights
  5. Both books are comic memoirs (sort of) about their rise to fame
  6. The both worship Amy Poehler. So do I, by the way.
  7. They are funny

I’d say Tina is obviously the bigger star here. She’s older, a household name, and can get away with such a gross book cover. She had a $6M advance! So, yeah, she’s successful. But big star power aside, Tina is the better writer, too. Not that it’s a contest. But if you are planning on reading both, maybe read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) first.

Kaling feels like your fun friend. She shops, she talks about dieting, and gossips about celebrities from the outsider point of view. Not like someone who’s worked with some of the funniest people in television. Very down to earth.

Kaling is at her best when she discusses what’s interesting: The Office! Her work is what we want to know about. I’d say this book is premature. In ten years, she will hopefully have enough career highlights and anecdotes to fill a book. Right now she has a couple great chapters and lots of filler. I don’t think I’m being harsh when I say the chapter “Why Do Men Take So Long to Put Their Shoes On?” could be eliminated. I didn’t hate the book. It was enjoyable, just not awesome. If Kaling published another book, I’d definitely buy the ebook. But not the hardback.

Bossypants is a goldmine of witticisms. The New Yorker printed a couple chapters in advance, and they don’t print crap, you know. Tina Fey is self-effacing, much like her 30 Rock character, Liz Lemon. But she also knows her worth and often speaks to the tough realities of being a woman in comedy. She knows she deserves her success.

Fey’s book clues you in to some secrets of being famous. Her description of a photo shoot is hilarious, removing all traces of glamour and turning it into an embarrassing day at the office. “Don’t ever really feel inadequate looking at magazines. Just remember every person you see on a cover of magazine has a bra and underwear hanging out a gaping hole in the back.”

Fey’s had the kind of career worthy of writing a book. There are several fascinating periods of her life and so many interesting characters. Anecdotes from SNL alone could have filled a book. This is one that I wouldn’t mind reading again for its laugh out loud moments and overt feminism.

I love the funny ladies. I need to read Jane Lynch’s book next.

Wednesday, January 11th

Mockingjay

The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy is Mockingjay. My friends have given it mixed reactions, and a couple have said it was their least favorite. So if you’ve read it, please give us your opinion in the comments section. This post will contain spoilers.

At the end of the second book, we find out District 12 is gone! The all-star Hunger Games were interrupted and there’s a full on rebellion. Katniss was saved by District 13, which has been secretly living under the earth all these years. The Everdeen family is growing accustomed to living like moles.

Meanwhile, Kat’s fame and notoriety make her the perfect symbol for the revolution. She is the mockingjay. We are treated once again to the styling process, which I think is a hilarious element in these books. I have to remember that these are written for teenaged girls.

The last book of the series is the darkest, although they are all quite dark. There is more action, violence, bloodshed. There are no Hunger Games, which I appreciated. We don’t need to witness the games a third time. Instead there is lots of warfare with few moments of levity.

I’m not going to give anything else away. Just read the series. The last thing I will say is that story ends with hope, but does not wrap up in a neat little bow. Suzanne Collins created a very sad world and strong characters to inhabit it. I was glad to visit and glad to leave.

Tuesday, January 3rd

Catching Fire

It’s true. I’m infected with The Hunger Games Fever. Symptoms include: staying awake all night reading, reading instead of showering, and letting the television gather dust due to inactivity.

The nice thing about reading an older book series is instant gratification. No waiting for the next book to come out. Since the first one ended with a pretty big cliffhanger, it was nice to just immediately pick up the next book.

Now, I don’t know how to talk about the second book, Catching Fire, without giving a lot away about the first book. So stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. I repeat: SPOILER ALERT.

Catching Fire picks up shortly after the Hunger Games ended. Katniss and Peeta are back home in District 12 and living in new homes in the Victors’ Village. While they no longer have to worry about where they are going to get their next meal, they are haunted by nightmares of the games. Plus, President Snow is pissed at Katniss for what he viewed as her rebellion against The Capitol in the games. And this dude is creepy and mean.

Things are strained between Peeta and Katniss as well, so things pretty much suck all around. Now they have to go on tour of the other districts and talk about the games, do a little dog and pony show. It makes for a nice recap of the key players in the game and also gives us some insight into how the other districts work.

Katniss unwittingly finds herself at the center of some political unrest. The oppressed people of Panem view her as a strong figure of revolution and change, a dangerous position to be in. Her mockingjay pin (featured on the cover of both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire) becomes an underground symbol of those joining the resistance. The mockingjay is a symbolic bird throughout all three novels, and is a hybrid species from mockingbirds and jabberjays. They have the ability to repeat any tune, and in that way can be used to carry messages.

We expect Katniss and Peeta to mentor the newest tributes for the next year’s Hunger Games, but there is a horrible twist that I will not reveal. I’ll just say that we see another round of games and they are much different than in the first book.

A lot of new characters are introduced and the teen romance is not as prevalent in Catching Fire, which I appreciated. I thought the second book was more interesting and just as exciting as the first. Please feel free to share your thoughts in  the comments.