Books

talktogirls

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield

Anyone who has ever found themselves using pop music as a touchstone for certain points in their lives should undoubtedly enjoy Rob Sheffield’s Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. A collection of essays named after some of the most quintessential songs of the 1980s such as “Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s, Madonna’s “Crazy For You,” and even Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina,” readers need not have come of age during the decade to relate to the humorous anecdotes of what it was like growing up a middle class music fan during Reagan-era America.

- Dean

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everything

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste Ng

This is the fictional story of a Chinese American family living in a small town during the 1970′s.  The main story revolves around the sudden and tragic death of the family’s favorite daughter, but in between the lines the author explores the many ways in which people deal with grief, while still fighting an overwhelming need to fit in.  This book is a mystery of sorts, as no one can quite agree as to how the daughter died, but more so than that it’s an exploration into family dynamics and how each person got to where they are now.  The author switches view points and provides ample back story of her characters in order to provide the reader with a rich and full picture of a family struggling to fit in, before and after their tragic loss.
-Stephanie
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index

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

This was the saddest and most difficult book to read.  It explores the turmoil and swirling forces around the summer of 1994 in Rwanda.  This was a time when the Republic of Rwanda’s government adopted a new policy in which everyone in the country’s Hutu majority group was called upon to murder everyone in the Tutsi’s minority.

Philip tells us about the years before and after the genocide and reminds us that Rwandan history is dangerous.  With a record of successive struggles for power which consists in the ability to make others inhabit your story of their reality-“even, as is so often the case, when that story is written in their blood.” –p. 48.

His title is based upon an excerpt from a letter written by pastors in one Tutsi community to their church president, a Hutu.  He says that he writes about how people imagine themselves and one another.  The book was published in 1998 and had 7 printings by 1999.  I am so amazed that he was able to observe and obtain his facts and figures without being endangered. He conducted conversations and interviews among key leaders and those attempting to heal from various sections of the country.

I found myself wanting to highlight so many pages to share the things I’ve learned.  For instance, there was no US-Bill Clinton-Madeleine Albright-United Nations-NATO intervention in the genocide of these African people.  And-Clinton’s ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright opposed leaving even the skeleton crew of two hundred seventy (UN Troops) in Rwanda.

On pages 5 and 6 he mentions an article about Dian Fossey’s death in Rwanda with murky proceedings even though the case is closed.  And he mentions the prophesy of a Catholic Visionary named Little Peoples, who was in communication with the Blessed Virgin Mary-who relayed messages announcing WOE FOR RWANDA.

Rwanda was the most Christianized country in Africa with 65% Catholics and 15% Protestants.  A year after the genocide, The Rwandese Patriotic Army had been deployed to close a camp for “internally displaced persons” at Kibeho, the hill famous for apparitions of the Virgin Mary.  Kibeho is merely one of dozens of camps for those displaced.  More than 80,000 Hutus who had fled their homes after the genocide were living at the Kibeho camp, which the French had set up during Operation Turquoise.  The RPA operation to close the camp had gone awry, and at least two thousand Hutus were reported killed.  Once again, a UN battalion had been on hand and had done nothing.  (This is a direct quote from Philip).

“The Story of Rwanda had been bothering my mind, and I wanted to explore how the killings at the Kibeho camp related and compared to the genocide that preceded them.”-writes Philip.

On p. 188 it seems that relief agencies agreed in principle but not about how the displaced people should depart the camps!  And by early 1995, a quarter of a million IDP’s (internally displaced persons) remained in the camps, of which Kibeho was the largest and home to the largest collection of hard-core Genocidaires.

This book sparks a lot to bother my mind as well.  I would love to learn the role of the UN.  I only know that when I was much younger in 1990- I was impressed walking through the UN building in NYC for what may have been a brief hour or two.  If I were to visit again, I am certain that I would make a day of it!

The author first began his journey to Rwanda in May of 1995.  His total stay was 9 months in the course of 6 trips.  Pages 186-208 particularly stirred me and I feel compelled to continue studying what happened not too long ago.

Abraham Lincoln said that “We cannot escape history.  We…will be remembered in spite of ourselves.”

-Lucille

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index

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

This extraordinary debut novel takes place during the Chechen conflict of the late 1990s. It’s a story of the power of love and sacrifice during a brutal war. This brilliant and haunting book is one of my favorite books of 2013.

–Daina

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fortune cookie chronicles

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee

if you enjoy reading about food and how people eat almost as much as eating (or cooking), give this book a shot. The author uses her search for the origins of fortune cookies as a jumping-off point to explore various facets of the history of Chinese food in America (and beyond). Some of the stories she tells are by now pretty familiar (the genealogy of General Tso’s chicken, for instance, has appeared elsewhere), but others are still fresh. It’s not just about food, either–discussions of immigration patterns and a tragic family drama are also part of this book. This is a fascinating, quick read full of a surprising variety of stories all related to one (spoiler alert!) Japanese cookie.

–Gabe

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The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War by Jacqueline Winspear

This is a stand alone novel by the author of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, once again the setting is rural England during World War I,  it was published to coincide with the centennial of the Great War which we are now commemorating.

It is the tale of two best friends, Thea Brissendon and Kezia Marchant, both teachers by profession, Kezia marries Thea’s brother, Tom and becomes a farmer’s wife. Thea becomes passionate about the women’s suffrage and pacifist movements. Tom soon enlists and joins his fellow villagers in the trenches.

This sad and poignant story brings home the enormity of war by letting the reader view it through the shared experiences of  the main characters. It’s a great read, if you haven’t read the Maisie Dobbs series that’s worth reading as well.

-Daina

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Music

alrightstill

Alright, Still by Lily Allen

This album is clearly a 37 minute and 12 second snapshot of what it was like to be Lily Allen in her early 20s. Produced by superstar producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Bruno Mars), Alright Still is a slightly filthier throwback to the kind of albums that such ’60s singers like Lulu, Petula Clark, and Cilia Black used to make. However, while she seems sweet at first, upon a closer listen it is clear that Allen possesses an acid tongue. Anecdotes of drinking, boys, and general partying are filtered through nonchalant sass and sarcasm throughout. Highlights include the misleading “Smile,” the playfully confrontational “Knock ‘Em Out,” the rambunctious “Friday Night,” and the unexpectedly tender “Littlest Things.”

- Dean

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Modern Love

Modern Love by Matt Nathanson

This is Matt Nathanson’s 8th album, but I’ve just found his music. He is a talented songwriter and has a great voice. This CD is filled with upbeat songs and heartfelt ballads. Each time I listen I come away with a new favorite.

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Songs without Words

Songs without Words: Classical Music from The War A Ken Burns Film

This CD features a number of interesting excerpts, including a lovely movement from a trio by the modern composer Gyorgy Ligeti and Edward Elgar’s impossibly gorgeous “Nimrod,” from the Enigma Variations (ask me the story behind that sometime; it’s fun). But the big winner on the disc might be the excerpt from Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which was written while the composer was a prisoner in a Nazi camp. It’s a beautiful piece, and if you enjoy the bit on this CD, you might just want to seek out a recording of the whole thing.

–Gabe

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Throwing Copper

Throwing Copper by Live

One of the first CDs I put on my iPod was “Throwing Copper” by Live. It’s one of my favorites. It’s not new (1994), but I think it’s good rock music. I especially like the hidden track at the end, which is a little different than the rest of the CD.

-Debbie Z.

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Movies

community

Community Season 2

Criminally under appreciated, Community Season 2 ups the ante from season one for the pop culture obsessed series. Following the antics of Greendale Community College’s most notable study group, the eccentric, yet likeable cast that includes Joel McHale (host of the E! series “The Soup”) and Chevy Chase often get their biggest laughs when paying homage to some of their favorite film and television tropes.

While it’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few episodes, one of the season’s earliest highlights is “Epidemiology” where the student body begin exhibiting zombie-like symptoms at Greendale’s annual Halloween dance due to discount taco meat. Later in the season “Critical Film Studies” simultaneously pays homage to Pulp Fiction and My Dinner with Andre while “Paradigms of Human Memory” pokes fun at the clip show trope by presenting viewers with clips from past episodes that were never actually produced. By far, though, the most ambitious and hilarious moments come from “A Fist Full of Paintballs” and “For a Few Paintballs More.” As one would no doubt expect, spaghetti western director Sergio Leone was a big influence here as the school participates in an epic game of paintball. The game takes a turn towards the stars in part two, however, when an evil mastermind of Darth Vader proportions reveals himself and the scheme he has concocted to destroy the school.

- Dean

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The Bay

The Bay

Creepy-crawlies? Check. Moderately disgusting “special makeup effects”? Check. Things popping out of nowhere, loudly? Check. A relevant environmental message? Check?! This movie is a sort of weird hybrid of found-footage horror (think Paranormal Activity-style, or, if you’re an old like me, Blair Witch-style) and what I lovingly refer to as feel-bad activist documentary (King Corn, Food, Inc., etc.). The only previous entry in this hybrid genre, to the best of my recollection, is The Cove (note the similar title, even!), the one about how some people just can’t stop eating delicious, delicious dolphin meat, but it turns out that was actually just straight documentary. If you’re a fan of silly horror movies, as I am, and maybe give a hoot about the state of our planet, this movie will offer you a good time. And it’s short, so even if you’re not the biggest fan of it, it’ll be over before you know it. Except in your creepy-crawly-infested nightmares, of course!

–Gabe

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The Master

A lot has been written about The Master and it certainly inspired an interesting discussion at our most recent Film Discussion Group. I was particularly taken with the film because I like movies that are open to interpretation. And, boy, is this one ever open to all sorts of readings! One of the reasons I like it so much has nothing to do with its story or theme or anything like that, but rather has to do with its aesthetic qualities. It was filmed in 70mm, which is uncommon these days, and was clearly composed to be seen on a big screen (though it looks good on a smaller one as well). This, coupled with its interesting score, makes it a movie that is a pleasure to simply watch. Of course, one shouldn’t disregard the great performances or the thematic content! The Master is one of the best, most endlessly fascinating, and most beautiful movies of 2012.

–Gabe

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Battleship

Battleship

I know what you’re thinking: Battleship?! That movie is supposed to be awful! Surprisingly enough, it’s a good deal less terrible than you might expect. It’s dumber than a bag of really stupid hammers, for sure, but it easily surpasses its obvious inspiration (the Transformers movies) with coherent action sequences, a plot that is relatively easy to follow, and a third act that is absurdly hilarious. Also, it manages to pay homage to the original board game in a couple of small ways, one of which is at least slightly clever. I’m not saying that this is a masterpiece or anything, but if you ever want to turn off your brain and watch some stuff get blowed up real good, you could do a whole lot worse. On a scale of 1-4 stars, I give it: “Big dumb fun.”

–Gabe

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Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths

This pitch-black comedy, from writer-director-playwright Martin McDonagh (director of the criminally underseen In Bruges, which I should probably also be reviewing, so: go see it!), stars Colin Ferrell as an aspiring screenwriter trying to write a movie called, weirdly, Seven Psychopaths. Pretty soon, he finds himself entangled with all manner of psychopaths: some real, some imagined, some Christopher Walken, and many complications and much lavish violence ensues. For all the copious bloodletting, the movie ends up coming off in a pretty genial manner. It’s a hilarious good time for all the non-squeamish adults in the family!

-Gabe

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Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

From Wes Anderson, director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and more, comes a storybook tale of two slightly iconoclastic kids who fall in love and run away together. It features an all-star cast (Bruce Willis! Bill Murray! Bob Balaban!?!); meticulously detailed costumes, props, and sets (Khaki Scout merit badges!); and more whimsy than you can shake two sticks at (though if you’re familiar with Anderson’s films, you probably already figured that out). This is one of the sweetest movies of recent times, and was my favorite movie released in 2012. (It might even be my favorite movie by Wes Anderson, but don’t let Rushmore know!)

-Gabe

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