Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Malice

Snoop Dogg’s music is not my ideal form of entertainment (nor am I his ideal audience), but I approached his CD/DVD combo More Malice with an open mind. After all, I was just happy to have the chance to review it; I’ve been trying to get a copy for months, and I finally had it in my hands after traveling to the Livonia Public Library, who kindly let me check it out with my Chelsea Library Card (thanks, LVCC!). And finishing More Malice means I have completed the items promoted in the month of March, but also in the first quarter of the year. Progress! However, despite the open mind, listening/watching More Malice was not a particularly pleasant experience.

I began my review process by watching the DVD, which consisted of a movie (made by Snooop Dogg) that gives the story around the songs on Snoop Dogg’s previous CD, Malice N Wonderland. Before the movie began there was a fifteen minute behind-the-scenes feature of the making of the Malice N Wonderland movie. This was the best part of the entire More Malice package. In it, in addition showing their filming process, Snoop Dogg explained his inspiration behind the creation of the “Malice” story-- he wanted to create a superhero that black people could relate to. I love superhero stories, so I was excited to have something that’s up my alley.

However, when the movie began, I quickly found myself getting frustrated with the low quality of the storyline and writing. I wanted to know the back-story of Malice (How did he get the magic killing light embedded in his right hand? What was his motivation to become the savior of Wonderland? Was his secret identity Snoop Dogg, or was he just played by him). My rational self understands that you can’t have the kind of character development in a 40-minute movie created to highlight four Snoop Dogg songs, but it didn’t keep me from wanting more. Additionally, the DVD was disgustingly violent at times, and some of the songs weren’t well integrated with the story; For instance, “Gangsta Luv,” the song Snoop Dogg sang to rally the troops against Cain (the bad guy), heavily featured the lyrics “I’m kicken’ on these hos, do them like dominoes, I slam them on their back and tell them vamanos”-- not an inspiring call to arms.

After watching the DVD, which ends shortly after Malice turns to Wonderland’s citizens for support, I popped in the CD, thinking that it would continue the story (given the CD’s title). Maybe I didn’t fully understand the second meanings of Snoop Dogg’s songs (entirely possible), but I didn’t see how they related to the Malice storyline.

The CD is short, only 8 songs lasting for about a half hour, and three of the songs are new versions of songs from Malice N Wonderland (“We Want to Rock,” “Pronto,” and “Gangsta Luv”). A song new to the CD, “So Gangsta,” was laughable, as it did not sound “gangsta” in the slightest (not that I’m an expert of the definition). The song I liked best was “Pronto,” which was moderately catchy, but I didn’t like any of the songs enough to import them into my itunes.

I’m giving the More Malice package a 2/5. It wasn’t my thing, but if you’re a Snoop Dogg fan, give it a shot.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Snoop Dogg

Buy the CD/DVD

This is probably my last review of 2010, but come back on Monday, January 3 for my midpoint progress report. I am halfway through the time I've allotted for my mission, and, surprisingly, nearly halfway through the items I need to review, as well.

Have a safe and happy new year, and thank you for reading!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Beat up Anybody

Judah Friedlander’s book How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion looked stupid, but in a fun way. I’m a huge fan of 30 Rock, and even though Friedlander is a character in the show, not a writer, I guess I just assumed he would be funny by association. I was wrong. How to Beat Up Anybody was just plain stupid, and a waste of time to read.

The World Champion is an egotistical character that originated in Friedlander’s stand-up comedy. I’ve never seen the stand-up, so maybe The World Champion fares better in that medium. However, in a book that focuses solely on his ridiculous claims of awesomeness, it gets old fast. I think I would find the egomaniac annoying even in small doses, but when the entire book is based on the idea that this guy is funny, and then he isn’t, the entire book seems like a waste.

How to Beat Up Anybody consists mostly of very posed and photoshopped images of Friedlander (in his World Champion getup) beating the crap out of people. There are a few variations (in one chapter he’s dressed as a woman because people think drag is funny, in another he’s teaching strippers self defense because they wanted some boobs in the book), but generally it’s page after page of the same bad joke.

Also, the text in the book was poorly laid out—you are meant to read the text in a specific order, but because of its placement around photos, I was often reading steps out of place. I don’t think the jokes would’ve landed for me had I read them in the correct order, but the jumbled quality didn’t help matters any.

As you might expect, I’m giving How to Beat Up Anybody a 1/5. Seriously, this was almost worse than reading the books that make outlandish political claims that I disagree with; at least with those books, I can learn where others are coming from. I can’t come up with a single silver lining to reading How to Beat Up Anybody (and those of you who know what an optimist I am can really see how I feel about the book).

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Judah Friedlander

Buy the book

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Earth (The Book)

If I were given only one word to describe Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, I would choose delightful. The book, written by Jon Stewart and the Daily Show team, has everything I love about the Daily Show: namely, jokes (both smart and silly). Following the textbook-like format of their previous publication, America (The Book), Earth (The Book) presents itself as a guide to the aliens who will find our planet after human life is eradicated.

I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud as I was reading the book – seriously, my family asked me “What’s so funny?” on more than one occasion. The book, which covers basics like Earth, Life, Society, Religion, and Culture (among others), is filled with big pictures and tons of jokey copy. It was the polar opposite of many of the books I’ve read for the Daily Shill.

Though the pages of the book are designed to be read in any order (on someone’s coffee table or in the bathroom, for example), I went through and read every page consecutively. And I loved it all. Even though I read the library’s copy, I am considering buying Earth (The Book) for myself so that it will be on hand whenever I have only a few minutes to read and need a good laugh.

I give Earth (The Book) a 5/5, and recommend it to everyone. It is a delight.


Buy the Book


And, thus ends my week(ish) of daily reviews. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, have a super one this weekend, and for those of you who don’t, still have a super weekend! I’ll be back on Monday with my weekly review.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cyrus

It’s been almost a week since I saw Cyrus, and I’m still not sure exactly what I think of it. Like most indie films, this sort-of comedy, sort-of drama starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and Jonah Hill, presents interesting, funny characters, but also seems to end about 15 minutes before the storyline does (which can be frustrating).

The premise: John (Reilly) is not doing so hot with his life until he meets Molly (Tomei) and really falls for her. She’s crazy about him too, but it’s complicated by Cyrus (Hill), her grown son who she is incredibly (kind of creepily) close to. Cyrus, upset that there’s another man in his mother’s life, pretends to accept John while secretly attempting to undermine him.

Generally, the movie was pretty funny, and Reilly, Tomei, and Hill were all fine actors, but something didn’t make it there for me. Perhaps it was the lack of closure, but, in addition to that, the movie was kind of predictable. I don’t mind a predictable comedy, but since Cyrus was obviously trying to be something more, I wanted a surprise or two.

Don’t get me wrong; Cyrus is still worth watching if the concept intrigues you. I’m giving it a 3/5. It employed a neat technique of putting a sort-of montage of scenes over a single scene’s dialogue, to indicate time passing and relationships changing. And it did a super job of making the relationship between Cyrus and Molly weird, but not too creepy. And, it did make me laugh out loud, more than once. But it definitely remains a 3 movie.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with John C. Reilly

Buy the DVD


Sorry if this review is a little more casual and scattered than usual. Just as I was about to go to bed last night, I remembered that I had yet to write my review for today—and I did not have time to write one in the morning. Tomorrow’s will be better, I swear.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ricky Gervais: Out of England II

As a present to me, the last week of Daily Show interviews in 2010 featured a movie, a TV show, a book on the economy (okay, that one wasn’t much of a present) and a picture book. That, my friends, I can handle. Especially when the TV show is Ricky Gervais’s comedy special Ricky Gervais: Out of England II.

I will say from the get-go that I am a big fan of Out of England (I)—my family will still quote it from time to time—so I was definitely pre-disposed to be a fan of the second. And Gervais did not let me down. Though, as with any stand-up, every joke didn’t hit for me, I laughed aloud plenty of times.

Gervais is one of those comedians who will push the limits between a hilarious joke and an offensive one. And he doesn’t hold back in this special—grandparents and sensitive folk beware, this is not the show for you.

The highlight of the special for me was a segment Gervais spent riffing on a picture book that he received as a child. The pages of the book, an illustrated retelling of the story of Noah, were projected on a large screen, and Gervais read the book aloud, stopping to make jokes. I just loved it.

In the end, I’m going to give Ricky Gervais: Out of England II, a 4/5. I enjoyed the show as a whole, but I liked the first one even better. If you don’t mind being a little offended, it’s worth the watch.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Ricky Gervais

The special is currently on HBO on Demand

Monday, December 20, 2010

Molto Gusto

How exactly do you review a cookbook? Do you read every word of every recipe? How many of them do you have to try? Those are the questions that went through my head when Mario Batali was on The Daily Show to promote his new cookbook Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking. When I finally got a copy of the book from the library, I decided to read all the text that wasn’t within recipes, skim each recipe (read the title, look at pictures) and make at least one recipe from the book. Hopefully that’s good enough for you all.

Molto Gusto is divided into seven types of recipes: Vegetable Antipasti, Seafood & Meat Antipasti, Bruschetta & Cheese, Insalata, Pasta, Pizza, and Gelato & Sorbet. To be honest, most of the recipes in the book did not appeal to me; I hate cheese, which is a major component in Italian cooking. However, the pictures of the food were almost enough to convince me to try even the cheesiest recipe; they were beautiful. There was a picture for every single recipe, and they were pretty enough to be considered art (in my non-artist opinion).

I opted to make the “Green Beans with Charred Onions,” one of Batali’s simpler recipes. The recipe—which, in addition to green beans and onions, contains a sauce made of balsamic vinegar, orange juice, olive oil, and sea salt—was relatively easy to make and was quite good. This summer, when the family garden gives us more green beans than we know what to do with, I will definitely make it again.

However, though this recipe was easy, much of the supposedly “easy Italian cooking,” appears to be rather complicated. Even without considering the moderately advanced steps, many of the recipes are difficult due to specific, harder-to-find ingredients, which would certainly discourage me from making them. With that in mind, I’m giving Molto Gusto a 4/5. Its pictures are beautiful and the recipe I tried was good, but the potential complications of other recipes make it lose a point.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Mario Batali

Buy the book

Friday, December 17, 2010

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

I am a big fan of David Sedaris; I even claim he is my favorite author from time to time (though I can’t actually settle on one). So I was thrilled when his latest book Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk was featured on a Daily Show interview. After all, it was one I was going to read regardless.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is different than most of Sedaris’s books; rather than memoir, it is a collection of short stories centering on animals with human traits. The stories reminded me of fables, except that there were few morals, and it certainly would not be fit for children.

Though the concept is hilarious (as is Sedaris’s original title: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls), most of the stories did not make it there. As my dad, who read the first four stories in the book before giving up, said, “It’s just not funny enough.” True, there were some stories like “The Cow and the Turkey” and “The Judicious Brown Hen” that made me laugh, but for each of them, there are two “The Migrating Warblers,” that weren’t worth reading.

I think I would have a different opinion had I listened to the audio book rather than reading a physical copy. Sedaris has performed a handful of these stories on the radio show This American Life, and I thought they were amusing there; Sedaris just has a way of making anything sound funny. Of course, had I gone with the audio book, I would have missed the wonderful illustrations done by Ian Falconer (best known for the Olivia series of picture books). And missing those would have been a shame.

As much as it pains me to give a Sedaris book a low rating, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk gets a 2/5. If you’re a fan, it’s worth picking up to see if you agree with me—it’s a short book and shouldn’t take much longer than an hour to read—but otherwise, I wouldn’t steer you towards it.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with David Sedaris (very funny)

Buy the book

Don't forget to come back next Monday-Thursday for a new review each day.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gunn's Golden Rules

I have never watched Project Runway or any other show that Tim Gunn may be on (is he on other shows? I don’t even know). But I’ve seen him on the Daily Show and Colbert Report, and he seems likeable enough, so I approached his book with an open mind. Maybe it was a little too open…

Gunn’s Golden Rules:Life's Little Lessens for Making it Work claims to be an etiquette book. And, as I was reading the introduction, where Gunn says the etiquette he cares about boils down to “just be nicer,” I was completely on board (I may have even said, “Yes, yes, I agree!” aloud). And then came the book. It was a strange amalgamation of manners tips, Project Runway anecdotes, and catty stories of people’s rudeness, peppered with all too many catchphrases (“Make it work,” anyone?). Not what I wanted.

What bothered me most about Gunn’s Golden Rules was how terribly scattered it was; it jumped from one story to another without transition—it seemed like it might be Gunn’s cocktail party conversation. I would’ve cut Gunn some slack—after all, he’s not a writer—but the book was co-written. Yes, there’s a little “with Ada Calhoun” on the cover. If you bring in a writer to help you with the book, the writing had better be decent. Or just neutral, I would’ve been okay with that. I will admit, I sometimes feel a little hypocritical criticizing the writing of these books, as I know my writing on this website is not super. But then I remember that they are writing a book—if I were writing a book (instead of a blog), you can bet I would draft and edit much more thoroughly. So, on with the criticism, I guess.

Every so often, Gunn told an interesting story, and the book was a quick read, but even so, I’m giving Gunn's Golden Rules a 1/5. If it weren’t for the Daily Shill, I would have stopped reading about 80 pages in.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Tim Gunn

Buy the Book



Sad to be at work this week and next? I don’t blame you. But, perhaps I can help? Come back to the Daily Shill every workday between now and Christmas (assuming you don’t work on the weekend or the 24th) and read a new review. That makes it all better, doesn’t it? Wait, you’re telling me it doesn’t? Well, sorry, it’s all I can do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ratings without Reviews

Well, I’m in the midst of writing multiple final papers (tomorrow, I have 26 single-spaced pages due), so I don’t have time to write my usual Monday review. However, come back later this week to read my review of Tim Gunn’s book Gunn’s Golden Rules. Meanwhile, enjoy this edition of Ratings without Reviews (books, movies, and TV I've recently watched that were not featured on the Daily Show).

Books
Dry by Augusten Burroughs: 4/5
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon: 5/5
The Learners by Chip Kidd: 3/5

Movies
Tangled: 5/5
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I: 4/5
Rachel Getting Married: 4/5

TV
Six Feet Under, Season 1: 5/5
30 Rock, Season 4: 5/5

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Know I Am, But What Are You

What with it being the week before finals, it certainly isn’t a good time to sit and read an entire book in a single day. But that didn’t stop me from pretending schoolwork didn’t exist and spending my Sunday reading Samantha Bee’s memoir I Know I Am, But What Are You. I couldn’t put it down.

Bee’s humor smoothly transitioned from the Daily Show stage to the pages of her book. As she told of her unconventional childhood and her strange personality quirks, I couldn’t help laughing out loud, even though the circumstances she described would come across as sad when told by anyone else. And Bee is the queen of one-liners. (I don’t mean to be making an insect-bee pun…really).

But I Know I Am, But What Are You is more than just jokes. The book wouldn’t have been so good if it weren’t for the intriguing subject matter. Bee has had a pretty crazy life. And lucky for us, she’s willing to share. Plus, the book ended shortly after Bee met Jason Jones (her husband and Daily Show co-correspondent), which leads me to believe more of these memoirs are in store. After all, she has to talk about her Daily Show time, right? I mean, I can only hope.

This is a short review, but it’s a bonus one, so hopefully there are no complaints. I give the book a 5/5. If you are going to read it, do know that the book can be rather brash (with language and some sexual stuff).

Monday, December 6, 2010

A New Way of Browsing the Daily Shill

A few days ago, Eric, someone I don't know (I can't tell you how exciting it is that people I don't know read this blog), asked if I could make a categorized list of the books I've reviewed.

Well, I haven't done exactly that, but I think I've done something else that will serve the same purpose. Now, every review will have a tag that has the format of the item (i.e. book, film) followed by a colon and its genre (i.e. science, comedy, health).

You can then look to the list of tags in the right toolbar and click on the classification that interests you (like TV:Comedy). You still will need to sift through the other tags, but since the list is alphabetized, there shouldn't be trouble.

Thanks for the idea, Eric! And if anyone else has thoughts, don't hesitate to share.

Countdown to Lockdown

There are many reasons that I am not the type of person that Mick Foley’s book Countdown to Lockdown: A Hardcore Journal was written for. (Take, for example, the fact that my inner English major died a bit when I ended that sentence with a preposition rather than writing “for whom the book was written). However, the biggest bit of evidence that I am not Foley’s ideal audience is that I am not a fan of professional wrestling. I will admit, I have never seen a wrestling match (Is that even the correct terminology? I don’t even know that!), but I somehow doubt exposure to pro wrestling would make a fan out of me. In his interview with Jon Stewart, though, Mick Foley seemed like a pretty good guy—how smitten he was with Tori Amos was rather endearing. And, surely, reading a memoir of a professional wrestler would be easier than reading yet another book on the economy. I wasn’t dreading the book when I picked it up.

And it didn’t start off so badly, either. Foley was pretty funny, and he understood that his readers might have varying interests regarding wrestling—he began each chapter with a “wrestlemeter,” rating how much the chapter dealt with the sport (is sport the correct classification?) so that fans could skip chapters that didn’t fit their interest. Of course, as someone who was reviewing the book, I didn’t let myself skip any chapters.

As Countdown to Lockdown went on, though, I began to get annoyed with Foley. Even though he acknowledged early on that he’s been accused of being a name-dropper, that didn’t stop his name dropping tendency from irritating me after awhile. Foley seemed to alternate between self-importance and self-deprecation, neither of which I found particularly endearing. I never cared about (or fully understood) the wrestling stories, so the only thing that was going to make this book work for me was a liking for Foley (since the writing, though better than what you might expect from a professional wrestler, was nothing special).

But just as I was mentally lowering my rating for Countdown to Lockdown, Foley brought the book home with a few well-written, intellectually engaging chapters dealing with the premature deaths of wrestlers and substance abuse. I think the chapter on steroid use/abuse particularly deserves to stand alone and engage conversation on the morals and legality of performance enhancing substances.

So, in the end, I’m giving Countdown to Lockdown a 3/5. If you’re a professional wrestling fan, you’ll probably love it, and if, like me, you’re not, I recommend you pick and choose chapters for the best experience.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Mick Foley

Buy the Book

As a bonus, return to the Daily Shill later this week (probably tomorrow, but maybe on Thursday) for a review of the other book Mick Foley promotes in his interview: Samantha Bee’s I Know I Am, But What Are You?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Last Call

Daniel Okrent’s interview promoting his book Last Call was one of the ones that made me say, “I’m so glad I have to read this book!” I find the 1920s a fascinating time period, and prohibition is an exciting topic. Plus, I’ve been enjoying watching HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire, which centers on prohibition, and my turn with the library’s copy of Last Call arrived just a few episodes into the show. I was eager to begin reading and get some more background information, which would surely just add to my enjoyment of the show. However, maybe because I’d hyped up the book, Last Call fell a bit flat.

Don’t get me wrong, Okrent is a fine historian and decent writer, and Last Call is a thorough exploration of the Prohibition period. Beginning with the initial campaign for prohibition, Okrent follows with the ratification of the 18th Amendment, the period of prohibition, and ends with the amendment’s repeal.

Last Call is filled with details about the people and events surrounding prohibition. And though I found many of these details to be, well, kind of boring, the ones Okrent hid in footnotes were delightful. It seems as though every so often he came across a “fun fact” in the course of his research that had little to do with prohibition; however, the stories were just too good not to share, so he added them in a footnote. I loved that.

But, the thing is, I expected Last Call to be a little more exciting—the “sexier” part of prohibition, if you will. I wanted less politics and more parties, less Al Smith and more Al Capone. Still and all, Last Call was a decent read and I’m giving it a 3/5. If you’re just reading it for fun, though, I recommend skimming (or skipping) the first section. Or, you know, you could just watch Boardwalk Empire instead.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Daniel Okrent (It's quite interesting!)

Buy the book

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grown Ups

You’d think, as I’m a huge Saturday Night Live fan, that I would be thrilled to see the guys from the cast of the early 90s get together for a movie. But here’s the thing, out of those guys, I truly dislike two (Adam Sandler and David Spade) feel neutral-leaning-to-dislike towards one (Rob Schneider) and like one (Chris Rock). Throw in yet another guy I could care less about (Kevin James) and you get Grown Ups, a comedy with too many leads and not enough laughs.

The premise: all these fellas were on a middle school basketball team that won a championship. Though they’ve drifted apart in their adult lives, when this coach dies, they all reunite at his funeral. (Let me drift away from the synopsis for a just a second here to talk about the implausibility of this whole situation. We’re talking about a middle school basketball team here. Could you tell me the first name of your middle school basketball coach? Would you go to his funeral? Also, this coach seemed to have no other friends/family other than the kids who were on this team. He asks that Sandler give his eulogy, Schneider sings a song—what about his children and loved ones? Hell, what about the other basketball teams he coached? – he did get a new one each year. This bothered me for the entire movie…clearly).

So these guys each bring their entire family out to this funeral for this guy they once knew, and, Sandler, feeling nostalgic, rents this lakehouse for them all to stay at. And each of these guys, of course, has their own family issues. Sandler is crazy-rich and his children are spoiled brats; Spade is a womanizer who’s never settled down; Schneider has married an old hippy (and has been a terrible father to his three grown daughters); Rock’s wife is pregnant and he has a crazy mother-in-law who lives with him; James is low on cash (and his wife still breast-feeds his 6-year-old son). Basically comedy waiting to happen…or at least that’s what these guys thought.

But the comedy didn’t pull through for me; most of it was on the fart joke caliber and the funniest line (“I want to get chocolate wasted”) was featured in the film’s trailer. Plus, I just wasn’t able to feel for any of the main characters because there were just too many of them. I couldn’t tell you a single character’s name because each family was only given a minute or two of introduction. After that, the movie is old guys trying to relieve their glory days by doing stupid stuff. And yes, that last sentence refers both to the plot of the film and its creation.

As you might expect, I’m giving Grown Ups a 1/5. If you’re a big Sandler and crew fan, maybe you’d like it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Adam Sandler & Chris Rock

Buy the DVD

A Visit to the Daily Show

Ever wonder what it's like to attend a taping of the Daily Show? Well, today, all your questions will be answered. I turn, yet again, to a Daily Shill Correspondent. This time, it's Andrea Levine, our Senior Big City Correspondent. Take it away, Andrea!


As I approached the surprisingly unassuming building that houses the Daily Show studio, one thought pulsed through me:

It smells like manure.

Once I solved that mystery (oddly located horse-drawn carriages in a not-so-scenic neighborhood), I readied my butt for a whole lotta pavement sitting. Despite a friend having secured tickets online, I was told that they overbook every show so as to ensure a full house. More than one person had recommended getting there super early to guarantee a seat, so there I was at 1:45...with about 6 people in front of me. I guess random Tuesdays in fall are not exactly peak season for eager tourists looking to be starstruck. Lucky for me I am a local who is ALWAYS looking to be starstruck, and my lone responsibility on Tuesdays is my early morning Hebrew grammar class (the only thing more riveting than a visit to The Daily Show). The line didn’t get much longer until around 3:30, at which point a bunch of young guys with very official-looking ear pieces made us stand single file against the wall as they set up stanchions. They came back a few times throughout the four-plus hour wait to explain policy, mainly concerning photos (big no-no, obviously) and the metal detector we would be going through, and that if we had to go to the bathroom we’d BETTER do it now, because if we go during the show we’re shit out of luck. (See what I did there? On an inconsequential side note, the reading material in the bathroom included "Richard Simmons’ Never Give Up: Inspirations, Reflections, Stories of Hope." I couldn’t tell if this was an intentionally tongue-in-cheek choice, but it was a great tone-setter for the evening regardless.)

I felt like the staff “bros” were a lot more intimidating than they needed to be, especially when it came to the metal detector. They warned us against holding up the line, adding that what cuts it at the airport metal detector is not necessarily going to cut it at The Daily Show. They also made a point of noting that we did not have to take off our shoes, reiterating, “this is NOT the airport.” The irony of this was that my boot buckles set off the detector, and the guy literally felt up my ankles. Not gonna lie, I felt a little like a prison inmate...at least based on what I’ve seen on Oz, minus the rape and gang wars. But I digress.

I figured the studio would be small, but what really struck me was how tiny the desk was. For some reason I always thought of Jon as pretty tall, and could not imagine how his legs would fit under that thing. To the right of the desk is a very small stage which presumably was reserved for the correspondents, although our show was Jon-only. I couldn’t complain, especially seeing as how the guest was none other than Han Solo. If anything makes up for a Corddry-less episode, it’s my favorite scruffy-looking nerfherder. (Is Rob Corddry even still on the show? I have to admit, it’s been a while since I last watched. But I love me some Corddry.)

Once we were all seated we were entertained by a pumper-upper comedian named...I actually don’t remember his name. But he was surprisingly delightful, most notably in teasing the older members of the audience, of which there were actually quite a few. It was really refreshing to see the mix of people in the crowd, all successfully pumped by whatshisname.

And then...JON. Who, by the way, is not actually that tall. And IS actually that handsome. He thanked us for braving the cold, and reassured us that what with the horses being in such close proximity to the building, it is infinitely worse to wait outside in summer, stank-wise.

Jon starts every show with a brief Q&A with the audience, a great way to establish an easygoing vibe and to show us how much it means to him that we came. Questions included:

“Which hurts more, the Mets or the recent elections?”
“The Mets, for sure. That cuts to the SOUL.”

and...

“Why don’t you use your notoriety to help affect real policy as opposed to just commentary?”
“That’s a great question...I’m better at this.”

Unfortunately, the first question came from a young girl begging for a job on his staff, resume and cover letter in hand. I thought it was pretty tacky, especially because even as Jon tried to play it off with a joke she kept pushing. He, of course, handled it perfectly, assuring her that a random stage hand would “file” the paperwork as he brushed her off. In his opening on-camera comments, he mentioned that a ticket to The Daily Show is not, in fact, a job interview. It was funny, but I was a little mad that she got the shout out, even if it was at her expense. (Alright I’ll be honest...I’m just hating on her because I’m jealous.) The fun, I-feel-like-such-an-insider part of this was realizing that the opening comments of every show are generally in reaction to this Q&A session.

Onto the show. The man is a consummate professional, and it was truly inspiring to watch him at work. It never once felt like he was reading a script...I’m honestly not even sure how much of it was scripted. His charm is genuine and effortless; he even makes cursing classy. The show is filmed in real time, and at each commercial break he chatted it up with his crew, sans any celebrity pretense or bravado. The breaks also gave me opportunities to have my requisite OHMYGAHDTHISISHAPPENING moments, which I appreciated.

Never have I had such a moment as when Harrison Ford walked in. The grandeur of said moment was interrupted, however, by the hilarity of the fact that Harrison’s pants were too short, and he was wearing pale yellow socks with loafers. His good looks may betray his age (and I assure you, they are GOOD), but the wardrobe was a gentle reminder of the fact that the man is pushing 70. I wouldn’t normally use the word “adorable” to describe rough and tough Indiana Jones, but the silly pants made it splendidly applicable.

Perhaps he was overcompensating for the hemline in his demeanor, because he seemed pretty annoyed the whole time. It was likely an image thing (he’s fucking Harrison Ford, he can do whatever he wants), but I was definitely hoping for a little more lightness; I mean come on, it’s Jon Stewart! Crack a smile! Or at least find a way to insinuate “GET OFF MY PLANE” into the conversation! (Too much? I told you, I get starstruck.) His best jibe was in response to Jon admitting that he had not seen Harrison’s new movie, Morning Glory. When asked what it was about, Harrison initially fumbled over his words, at which point Jon asked, “have YOU even seen this movie?” Ford’s deadpan reply after a beat of silence:

“It’s fucking brilliant.”

He couldn’t have been on for more than 5 minutes, which seemed like it must have been an eternity to him based on his gruffness. But it was definitely nice to have more one on one time with Jon. It really did feel like that, despite the 300 or so people in the audience. After the moment of zen (a Glenn Beck clip! Score!) Jon let us know that the show was about a minute and a half over time, and that we would be cutting a short segment and refilming its intro. Once that was finished, he gave us a sincere thank you and exited to thunderous, admiration-laden applause.

Four and a half hours of waiting, and then it was all over so fast. I’d love to be able to get back; I’m not even sure how my friend got the tickets. She joined a mailing list or something. I’ll have to look into it. Until then I’ll just borrow Highwater Harrison’s words to assure you that, horse stank and prison guard staff members notwithstanding, attending The Daily Show is everything you think it will be and more.

That is to say...It’s FUCKING BRILLIANT.



Hey all, it's Emily again! Don't you just love these essays (or should I say reports?) from correspondents? I sure do! And let me tell you, their timing is fortuitous, as grad school has been monopolizing my life. However, there is an 80% chance that another post will be made by the end of the day (and, this time, it'll be a review by me). So check back! Or become a fan on facebook (and check your news feed) and you'll get an update!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

I was super disappointed when I couldn't make it to the rally a few weeks ago. Lucky for me, my friend Georgia Knapp made the trip from Georgia (yes, Georgia from Georgia) to DC and was willing to write about it. So, let me turn to floor over to our first piece by Daily Shill correspondent, Georgia Knapp.


I am not sure what I had expected, boarding the rally bus, but it was not the actual occupants who looked back at me as I gave the captain my reservation number. In a way, I had stumbled upon my own haven (or heaven): gay men, ex-hippies, and socially inept nerds (the kind that think interface jokes are really cool – and if you didn’t understand that then you actually are cool). One of the older women I had befriended while waiting to get on the bus hailed me towards the back and offered the window seat next to her. I had taken an instant liking to her when she first pulled up in an orange Honda Fit (I own a silver one) that was littered in COEXIST and OBAMA bumper stickers. We sat across the aisle from two older women who had most certainly put flowers in police rifles back in the 60’s and behind us were two guys bonding over Dungeons and Dragons references. Our bus captain informed us that he had never been in charge of a large group of people before, but would do his best not to lose anyone, and we were off.

Atlanta was the only city in Georgia to send buses to the rally and, from what I was over hearing from fellow passengers, it was the closest stop for many out-of-staters as well. Coming from five hours south, I believed myself to have traveled the farthest, but soon found others from Alabama, Tennessee, and both of the Carolinas. People (myself included) often joke about the South’s lack of open-minded people, but the occupancy of Atlanta Bus #1 certainly did not help to prove otherwise. Within a five hundred mile radius Atlanta was only able to scrounge up enough people to fill up two buses factoring into a little over one hundred people. And friends wonder why I refrain from vocalizing my political beliefs within large crowds down here.

The bus was full of chatter and debate, as one would expect of travelers headed to a political rally. Besides the aged hippies and computer geeks, my corner of the bus also consisted of two young hipsters (one of whom carried a stuffed white owl for no reason), two Georgia Tech students studying for an exam, and a biker-chick-divorcee. One of the hippies, Charlene, joked that we should all watch Fox News just before pulling into the capitol just so we could get riled up. Conversational topics ranged from everything between taxes, Bush, Monica Lewinsky, Rand Paul, Hugh Grant, the stereotypes of smoking and smokers (most of which were negative, which made me feel bad because no one had noticed my fellow Honda Fit seat partner had brought a pack of Camels with her), and bald vs buzz-cut men.

Lights began to turn off around midnight and through my contact lens-less eyes I could make out a sign pointing towards Clemson University just before nodding off. I woke up a few more times during the night (if our bus hit a pebble it sounded as if the entire fa├žade might crumble) only to find the Tech boys still awake. The other bus-ers finally began to stir around seven a.m. as we sailed through North Carolina.

I’m not sure what happened next. One minute we were passing a sign for the Blue Ridge Parkway and then I was awoken by a blinding light, everyone around me had sunglasses on (and I mean literally everyone), and the Washington Monument could be seen out the left windows. Our bus was oddly calm and quiet as we pulled onto Massachusetts Avenue and made our way to Union Station. Already a thick line of people with picket signs and lawn chairs were filing straight from the station to the Mall. We circled Union twice before finding a parking spot and unloading. As we departed, our bus captain assured us that our bus would remain in this spot until we were to leave at eight p.m. “If for some reason it does have to move, however,” he said, making everyone freeze and pay attention, “we have a sign posted in the window that says Atlanta Bus Number One.” And with that we all dispersed, confident in the knowledge that if our bus were to leave all we would have to do is look for the 8x11 sheet of scrawled on computer paper in the front window. That should be enough to distinguish it from the other ninety-nine buses that had shuttled over five thousand ralliers from across two time zones.

Walking through Union was about as fascinating as the dichotomies of the people on Atlanta Bus #1. It was easy to see that the entire station had been over run with ralliers as the terminal was an ocean of red, blue, poster boards, and costumes. Cardboard cutouts of Barack and Michelle Obama had been placed near a storefront and I watched as everyone posed excitedly with the couple. This was foiled against the Sarah Palin cutout, which stood opposite, that people, for the most part, pretended to strangle.

I had planned to meet some of my friends and roommates from college at the rally so I sat on a giant stone structure outside of the station and waited for the Ann Arbor buses to arrive. I could not have picked a more perfect spot to perch as this was the exact corner that everyone snaked around when marching from Union Station to the Mall. Wizards, hippies, superheroes, Nixon masks, cat women, and an infinite number of Where’s Waldos filed past me. It became hard to tell who was dressed up for the rally and who was prematurely in their Halloween costume (it was October 30th after all). A television crew from a Catholic network (I assumed they were with a Catholic network because the anchorman was dressed as a priest, but maybe that was his Halloween outfit) stationed themselves on the stairs directly below me, asking passersby their reasons for journeying to Washington. Most answers consisted of, “The country’s gone insane,” “We need to restore sanity,” and “I love Jon Stewart and/or Stephen Colbert.” Two guys around my age sat near me to display their signs: “I’m moderate as HELL!” and “One of these things is not like the other” written above photos of President Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Hitler.

When the Ann Arbor bus arrived, our group of graduated college students consisted of a 6’3” guy dressed as Karl Marx, a kid in traditional army camouflage (including short shorts and a purple bandana), a cow, a sign that read “Did Jesus have health insurance?” on the front and “You tell me! I can’t even read!” on the back and someone with a box over his head that was painted to look like a TV and had a picture of Anderson Cooper. Those of us in the gaggle not dressed up paled in comparison, but between the cow, Jesus sign, and Marx’s shock of white hair, we were able to keep up with most of the group throughout the rally; a feat that I assure you was no where near simple.

To say the Mall was packed would be an understatement. To say that it was like being one of those red crabs during migratory season on Christmas Island in South Asia (where, from a distance, it looks as though the ground is actually red instead of just being papered in crabs) is a bit more accurate. My former housemate, Jeanette, and her boyfriend, Zack, and I joined hands as we squeezed through people, keeping our eyes peeled on the Jesus sign so that we wouldn’t lose our group. There were Pro-Choice advocates, anti-Tea Party posters, people inside giant marijuana leaves, Gay Rights banners, a trio of Banana People (and that is exactly what it sounds like), and a slew of signs that were just about being signs: “Sign!,” “My sign’s too damn big!,” “I wanted to carry a sign, but couldn’t think of anything to write,” “My sign is sad,” etc.

I will say this: the crowd was the most courteous and polite mob I had ever been a part of. There was no real shoving or cutting off and if people saw that you were holding hands with someone so as not to get separated then they kindly waited until you both passed. Those who did push past people apologized saying, “Excuse me,” and as we finally found our way to the entrance of the Mall (the National Park Service had blocked off the actual Mall property with fences and port-a-potties) everyone took their turn flooding inside (like a controlled dam, if you will).

The scene inside the fences and port-a-potties was even more jam-packed, if that was possible. Some viewers were lucky enough to make it up into the trees, although how they got up the trunks whose branches didn’t even start for the first seven or eight feet is beyond me. Others stood on top of the port-a-potties, leaving the durability of the plastic houses in question. While following our Jesus sign, Jeanette, Zack, and I somehow managed to loop in front of our group. At that point we decided to stay where we were, which was about twenty to thirty yards away from the stage, in between the National Gallery of Art and the First Aid tent (incase there was a sudden stampede), and with a clear view to one of the giant projection screens that would show us what was happening onstage. The rally itself was to a level of phenomenal that I can’t even begin to describe. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert put on such a show that the liberals and conservatives within the crowd couldn’t resist but feel united for once and even in our sardine-like state everyone was cheery throughout the entire three-hour stand-athon.

Since we couldn’t actually see the stage, I took pleasure in watching everyone around me. It struck me that the age range of the crowd seemed to be sixteen to mid-twenties and then leapt to fifty through well...old. Where were all the middle-aged people? The demographic was also alarmingly pale and Jeanette and I were surprised when, as Father Guido Sarducci asked for shout-outs for different religions, the faith that got the loudest cheers was Roman Catholic. Baptists and Methodists received a medium amount, Islam got an expected supportive cry, and the religion that I shouted for, Buddhism, had so few yells that Father Sarducci thought there were none in the mass.

What most endeared me at the rally, however, were all the single parents who had brought their children. My back corner of Atlanta Bus #1 had consisted of a mother who had brought her young teenage son along and in front of my group (and sometimes surrounded by my group depending on the crowd shift) was a father who had obviously dragged his daughter to the event. The dad was full of so much glee and pride that I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Every now and then he would stop looking at the screens and turn in full circle to get a panoramic view of the historic event. Each time his rotation was ended with a comment along the lines of, “This is such a great nation that we live in.” His angst-filled daughter, on the other hand, was less than amused. Her clenched mouth, hunched shoulders and folded arms made it apparent that she (probably no more than fifteen) was not a fan of crowds and would rather seek solace in a book in her room. However, with each glance at her father, who simply beamed out over the sea of ralliers, her tension eased just a little. By the time Stewart and Colbert were having a musical war of sanity (Cat Stevens) versus fear (Ozzy Osbourne), the girl’s shoulders were completely relaxed and she was laughing right along with nearly 215,000 of her new friends.

No one was a stranger at the Rally to Restore Sanity. Everyone commented on everyone’s conversation and half the time, a question to Jeanette or Zack was answered by someone behind us. We laughed together; we cheered together; we even all shook our heads shamefacedly when a point was made that neither political side was wholly in the right: democrats, liberals, conservatives, and republicans attack each other with as much gusto and prejudice as the opposing side.

In the closing remarks, Jon Stewart made an analogy to something I found extremely appropriate to the crowdedness of the rally. On the giant screens appeared an image of the entrance to New York City’s Holland Tunnel as cars merged from multiple lanes into one single flow of traffic. He said that the way in which the cars let each other go one at a time was a display of the decency that we, as Americans, needed to show one another. It didn’t matter the make and model of the car or what bumper stickers it displayed, each vehicle yielded and shared the space. Every now and then some jerk will pull up along the shoulder and cut everyone, but there are people like that all over the world. The trick is to not become one of them.

“We know, instinctively, as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the Promised Land. Sometimes, it’s just New Jersey.”
– Jon Stewart






It's Emily again! Thanks so much for that, Georgia! When I asked Georgia to give the rally a rating from 1-5 (because why not?) she said, "I would definitely give the rally a 5. It was handled beautifully, the performances were fantastic, and all the speeches were amazing."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Due Date

I was cautiously optimistic when I went to the theater on Saturday to see Due Date. With the combination Robert Downey Jr's bad-ass sexiness and Zach Galifianakis' consistent humor, Due Date's cast appealed to me. But the story also seemed a whole lot like 1987's Planes, Trains and Automobiles-- a movie that I certainly enjoy, but do not need to see remade.

The initial concept seemed all too familiar. In their attempts to fly from Georgia to LA, Peter Highman (Downey Jr) and Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) get placed on a no-fly list thanks to Highman's angry reaction to Tremblay's idiotic antics. Highman needs to make it home to LA in three days for the birth of his son, but is unable to rent a car because his wallet is with his luggage on the plane. Enter Tremblay, a wannabe actor headed to "Hollywood," ready to save the day with his rental car (and complicate it with the coffee can filled with his dad's ashes). Despite Tremblay's clear deficiencies as a travel companion, he is Highman's only option, so the two embark on a cross-country roadtrip. Hijinks ensue.

For the first half hour of the movie, I was thinking, "Yeah, yeah, this is funny, but nothing new." And then, with a surprise sucker-punch, the movie starts to go a little nuts. Highman gets a little crazier than initially presented, Tremblay continues to become wackier, and the problems their trip poses stop being typical travel mishaps. It was just what the movie needed to become its own.

One of the things that impressed me the most about Due Date was how it dealt with the more tender scenes that most comedies stumble over. Due Date sneaks into them: what starts as a joke morphs into a moment where you really feel for one of the characters. Then, just as you start to get in a little too deep, Galifianakis says something ridiculous and you're laughing again.

Due Date is doomed to be compared to The Hangover, as they're both directed by Todd Phillips. Though I did like The Hangover better, Due Date is certainly worthy of being packaged with it in the nostalgic comedy box-set that will be released in another 15 years.

Due Date is a dumb movie, but a good kind of dumb. (However, be warned, if you're like my sister and don't like Galifianakis, this is not the movie for you). I give it a 4/5.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where am I? When will I return?

“Hey, Emily!” you may be shouting, “Whatever happened to the Daily Shill? Why did you do all that publicity like creating a facebook page and e-mailing your relatives if you weren’t going to post for weeks?”


I tell you, it wasn’t intentional. I’m in my first semester of grad school, and the workload over the past few weeks has really gotten to me.


“So what?” you may respond, “Are you ever coming back?”


The answer, my friends, is yes. I have less than 100 pages of Daniel Okrent’s prohibition left to complete, and I hope to see Due Date this weekend. So come back in a week or so (or check the Daily Shill facebook page) and I bet you’ll find a new review or two.


“But Emily,” you may whine, “I still want to read some reviews.”


Very well. Here are links to some of my older reviews.


A book I liked: A Captain's Duty

A book I didn't like: Staying True


A movie I liked: The Kids are All Right

A movie I didn't like: Cop Out


A TV Show I liked: Louie

A TV Show I didn't like: The Ricky Gervais Show


You could also browse the list, and click on the crossed-out titles to read their reviews.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Teaching the Pig to Dance

Between his careers in acting and politics, Fred Thompson could probably write a semi-interesting autobiography. Instead, however, he chose to focus his autobiography, Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances, on his childhood. That was a mistake. See, the problem is, not many unusual and exciting things happened to Thompson as a child.

Thompson takes us through his childhood, sharing stories of his family, his dog, and the trouble he got into in school (which, of course, are not in chronological order because that would make me too happy). What Thompson didn’t share, though, was why we should care. The only parts of the book that kept me interested were the parts where he veered away from his childhood and talked about how he got into acting and how, as a young man, he balanced raising a young family with attending law school.

Thompson did have the right touch for how much politics to put into his book. Even though Teaching the Pig to Dance was an autobiography, I expected it to tell me why I should be a conservative. However, though Thompson gave his reasons for aligning himself with the conservative side (despite hailing from a democratic-voting family), he did not use his book as a platform to recruit for the party. It was the perfect amount of politics.

Thompson’s writing was unremarkable; it was neither engaging nor hard to follow. Once I picked it up, it didn’t take long to get through the pages, but I was not inspired to pick it up in the first place. Keeping that in mind, Teaching the Pig to Dance gets a 2/5.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Fred Thompson

Buy the book

My grad school work is really picking up, so it may be a bit longer before my next review. But, rest assured, I’m not giving up!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The White House Doctor

Connie Mariano’s book The White House Doctor: My Patients Were Presidents is an easy, interesting read. Mariano writes candidly about her time working in the white house under both the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations, sharing anecdotal incidents and the path she took to get to her position.

Generally, I was pleased with Mariano’s writing; her stories were engaging, and she wrote them with a storyteller’s – rather than an academic’s – tone. She delicately wrote about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, neither ignoring nor sensationalizing it. Though I would’ve like the book to have a more chronological organization (Mariano sorted chapters by subject matter rather than time), I didn’t find it difficult to follow. Also, the pictures in The White House Doctor were printed throughout the book, rather than in a middle insert like they are in most books. Though this is a small touch, I found it to be infinitely better; while looking at the pictures, I knew their context.

In her book, Mariano lightly touches on the stresses her job put on her family life. Though this was interesting, it fit awkwardly into the book. I don’t think it should’ve been removed, but perhaps it could’ve been better distributed over the book (it was all in the last two chapters).

I don’t have much else to say about The White House Doctor. If it sounds like the kind of book you might like, it’s worth reading; if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t recommend it to you. With that in mind, it gets a 3/5.


Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Connie Mariano

Buy the book.

Additionally, I'd like to thank Kate who keeps up a list of the books and movies from The Daily Show at www.squidoo.com. (Here is a link to her list, which is a lot prettier than the one I update). I've used Kate's list a lot this year, particularly when I've had to miss a week of shows due to vacation (or when I forget to update my own list). Plus, Kate was kind enough to post a link to this blog on her page! So thanks, Kate!

Monday, September 27, 2010

King Abdullah II of Jordan

I know it's been a little while since my last review, and I should hopefully have a new one for you soon. (I've finished reading Connie Mariano's book White House Doctor and I plan on writing the review sometime this week). However, I want to encourage you all to watch Jon's interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
The king didn't come on the show to promote a book or a movie, but the interview was so good, I think it's worth mentioning here. The topic of the interview is the conflict in the Middle East over Israel, and if you have 20 minutes, you should watch it. It's enlightening.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Precious

After waiting for months, I finally got my turn to watch the library’s copy of Precious (Am I legally obligated to say the part about the novel it’s based on? I’m going to risk it, and you say it in your mind if you so choose.) Despite all I’d heard about Precious not being a complete downer movie, I didn’t quite believe it and braced myself for a rough hour-and-a-half. But, even though there were plenty of depressing moments (and one scene that made me say “no, no, no” to my screen) Precious was not an emotionally overwhelming movie.

Precious (Gabourey Sidibe), an overweight black teen, lives in an abusive household. She is pregnant with her second child by her father, who sexually abuses her, and her mother (Mo’Nique), resenting her for this, abuses her physically. When Precious is kicked out of her high school, she begins attending an alternative school where an attentive teacher (Paula Patton) teaches her (and the class of struggling teen girls) how to read and write.

The acting in Precious was phenomenal. After watching Sidibe stumble through hosting Saturday Night Live last year, I didn’t expect her acting to impress me, (though I now recognize this was stupid, considering she was nominated for an Academy Award). Sidibe was great, though, making me care about Precious right from the beginning. Mo’Nique portrayed the depth of her character, making her more than the one-sided villain of the movie (though you do hate her).

One of things I found most effective within Precious was the use of internal monologue and fantasies. Typically, using a voiceover to show what a character is thinking seems cheesy and tacked on, but in Precious, it was natural.

I recommend Precious, and give it a 5/5. Though it’s not one of those movies you want to watch a million times, it is definitely worth watching it once.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with director Lee Daniels

Buy the DVD

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Big Short

As you may have already realized, I’m tired of reading books about the economy. Because of that, I know I didn’t approach Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, with the most open mind, and therefore, this may not be the fairest of reviews. Another thing not working in The Big Short’s favor is that I listened to the audio version of the book, and the narrator wasn’t super. The waitlist on the book was very long, but no one had checked out the book on CD, so I opted for that. One good thing came out of the long waitlist, though, and so I will further delay beginning this review to tell you the story.

Early this summer, I was working behind the circ desk at the Chelsea District Library, and a patron came to pick up a book he had on hold. The book happened to be The Big Short, so I mentioned that I was on the waitlist for that book as well.
A few days later, this gentleman returned to the library and said, “I’ve read about 50 pages of Lewis’s book, and boy is it a good one. Have you read the one Harry Markopolos just wrote?”
Sure enough, I had just picked up No One Would Listen that morning. “I just started it.”
“Well, if you like Harry, you’ll like this one. They’re both ruthless.”
Now, each time this man comes into the library, he’ll tell me about the latest book he’s reading about the economy and gives me his opinion on whether it’s worth reading. Even though I know I’ll probably never read one of the books he tells me about, I love having those interactions over the circulation desk. Because of my Daily Shill mission, I’m connecting with a patron that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I’m glad for that.

And now, for the review.

The Big Short isn’t as bad as I may have made it sound. In it, he follows the financial moves of the handful of men who realized that the CDO market was doomed to fail. These investors and hedge fund managers purchased cheap insurance on these CDOs and ended up making tons of money.

Lewis candidly writes about these men. His stories of them are filled with direct quotes, and he doesn’t fill the book with technical talk that only economists could understand. I liked how he focuses on particular investors, which gives the reader characters to follow throughout the book. If it were the first book I’d read on the economic slump of 2008, I bet I’d have remained interested. Instead, though, I found myself losing focus. Rather than listening to the book over a short time span, I ended up listening to a disc here and there over the past 3 months.

But, even though it’s not going to be a fair one, I need to give The Big Short a rating. It gets a 3/5 because even though it bored me, I could see its merits. If you want to read a book about the economy, it’s probably a good choice.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Michael Lewis

Buy the Book

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New American Tea Party

Despite being a Liberal, I approached John O’Hara’s book A New American Tea Party: The Counterrevolution Against Bailouts, Handouts, Reckless Spending, and More Taxes with an open mind. In his interview, O’Hara seemed intelligent and reasonable, and I thought that his book could perhaps allow me to see what the tea party movement was striving to be before the crazy latched on.

For about the first third of the book, O’Hara gave me what I was looking for: he shared the history of the development of the tea party, explaining where they were coming from, with only a few snarky comments about the Democrats and Liberals. Though I didn’t agree with much of what O’Hara was saying, I could understand where he was coming from. And then he made the switch from recounting tea party history to bashing the media, President Obama, unions, and health care. The occasional anti-liberal joke expanded into mean-spirited rants, and all of a sudden A New American Tea Party was reading like every other political book. And that’s not a good thing.

Pardon me, while I break into this review to go on a little rant of my own about how much I hate political books. I hate them! The authors of these books—whether Democrat or Republic, Liberal or Conservative – talk about all the great things that their party does and all the terrible things the other guys do, and they back it up with facts. The trouble is, people on the other end of the political spectrum believe the complete opposite, and they have facts to back it up too. As a reader, this leaves me with nothing I can believe. I can’t trust the political writer because I know they will never say anything bad about their own party or anything good about their opponents, despite the fact that both sides have good and bad ideas, good and bad supporters. And that is why I hate political books. Now back to the review.

O’Hara is not a bad writer. He varies his sentence structure (and length), transitions adeptly, and spends a reasonable amount of time on each subject. But his book made me mad, and I didn’t enjoy reading it. It gets a 2/5.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with John O’Hara Part 1 Part 2

Buy the book

Things may slow down here at the Daily Shill over the next several months. I just started grad school this week, so I’ll be spending less time on my mission. But I’ll keep chipping away at this and try to make at least 4 reviews a month.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Death at a Funeral

Death at a Funeral is a movie filled with zillions of characters, each with his orher own problems, who are all thrown together at a family funeral. Here’s just a sampling: Aaron (Chris Rock) is saddled with the burden of planning and paying for his father’s funeral while his younger brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence) gets all the admiration from family without doing anything. Elaine (Zoe Saldana) is planning on revealing to the family that she is going to marry her boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden), but accidently gives him LSD, which causes him to hallucinate and act inappropriately. Norman (Tracy Morgan) has been given the responsibility for looking after crotchety Uncle Russell (Danny Glover). And then there’s the mysterious little person who appears at the funeral, revealing something about Aaron’s father that his family never knew.

That’s just a fraction of the many plotlines that Death at a Funeral puts forward. Unfortunately, I did not find the majority of them to be funny. Watching Marsden’s trip and the chaos it caused was the only part of the movie that made me laugh; generally, the jokes were lowest common denominator. Additionally, though Rock is an excellent comedian, his serious acting left more to be desired – much of his delivery sounded like emotionless reading.

Though Death at a Funeral’s glut of characters and situations took away from the movie as a whole, it kept the time moving quickly. Even though I wasn’t really enjoying it, I didn’t find myself counting the minutes until the movie was finished. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it. It gets a 2/5.


Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Tracy Morgan (This is a funny one. For some reason, Morgan reminds me so much of my paternal grandfather in this clip. I know that's irrelevant, but since many of the people who read this are my relatives, I figured I'd put it out there.)

Buy the DVD

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ratings without Reviews

Unfortunately, I haven't had time this week to finish anything for today's review. But I promised you a new post each day this week, so here are ratings for some movies/books I’ve read this summer that weren’t on the Daily Show.

Movies
Toy Story 3: 5/5
Despicable Me: 3/5
Dinner for Schmucks: 4/5 (P.S. How was this not on the Daily Show? He always has Steve Carell and Paul Rudd on.)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: 5/5 (Please, go see this movie. It’s different and fun, and it’s not doing too well. You’ll enjoy it)


Books
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen: 3/5
Fool by Christopher Moore: 2/5
Things My Girlfriend and I have Argued About by Mil Millington: 3/5
Diary by Chuck Palahniuk: 4/5
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: 5/5
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: 5/5
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: 4/5

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Losers

I will admit from the outset that The Losers is definitely not my type of movie. That being said, I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t like it either.

Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the leader of a Special Forces unit made up of himself, Jensen (Chris Evans), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short) and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada). While on a mission, the five find themselves framed for a crime by a man they know only as Max. They are presumed dead and are hiding out in Bolivia when Aisha (Zoe Saldana) appears saying she will smuggle them back into the US if they will kill Max. They agree, and the majority of the movie is spent tracking the guy down.

The Losers seems to be like any typical action movie, though this is just a guess on my part. There’s fighting and guns and a heist. To me, though, these things are boring when there’s not much of a story to go along with it. It was nice that the characters’ motives for tracking Max were explained, but I would’ve liked to have a little more substance to the story. Of course, this probably wouldn’t fit well with the movie’s genre.

The Losers is based on a Vertigo comic of the same name. I’ve never read the comic, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I still appreciated the film’s attempt to represent the comic form. It took advantage of freeze frame images during battle sequences and extreme close-ups that brought to mind comic frames.

All in all, though, I didn’t enjoy The Losers. I’m giving it a 2/5. But if you’re an action movie fan, you might enjoy it.


Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Zoe Saldana

Buy the DVD

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right is the second of this year’s three movies dealing with sperm donations (sandwiched between The Back-Up Plan and The Switch) and is probably the best of the three, though I will admit I’m basing my opinions of the other two solely on their trailers. But even without the others to make it look good in comparison, The Kids Are All Right would be a movie worth seeing.

I saw the movie with my friends Brodie and Caroline, and afterwards, we spent time discussing it, so some of the ideas in this review originally came from them—I will do my best to give them credit. (For example, it was Brodie who pointed out the trend of sperm donor movies).

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a lesbian couple who had two kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) using the same sperm donor. At the request of her brother, Joni tracks down the donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), and the movie depicts his entrance into the family’s lives. Paul’s presence causes tension both between Joni and her mothers and within Nic and Jules’s own relationship.

The acting in The Kids Are All Right is spot-on. Bening and Moore do an excellent job making their characters’ relationship believable and natural. As Caroline pointed out, they manage to get the audience caring about the couple quickly, so that when things start to become strained, we care. Ruffalo plays Paul with such charm, winning the audience over the same way Paul wins over the kids. I will not make a pun about Wasikowska’s and Hutcherson’s performances. Instead, I will tell you that they were fine.

One of the things I love about watching less mainstream movies like The Kids Are All Right is that I never know where they’re headed; one of the things I dislike is that they often don’t wrap up enough at the end. That was one of my few complaints with The Kids Are All Right, though I won’t tell you what I wanted to know more about because of spoilers. Due to that and the few spots where it lost my full attention, The Kids Are All Right gets a 4/5. But, as Caroline said to me yesterday, “The more I think about The Kids Are All Right, the more I like it.” Maybe if I had waited a little longer to write this review, it would have gotten a five.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Julianne Moore

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Revolutionaries

It bothers me that the Revolutionary War doesn’t interest me; for heaven’s sake, without it, I certainly wouldn’t be here. So, when I picked up Jack Rakove’s book, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, I was determined to put extra effort into appreciating what I read Unfortunately, this massive book wasn’t really about the Revolutionary War at all. Instead, it gave countless details about the founding fathers’ lives and the forming of America while hardly touching on the war itself. It was terribly boring.

One of the things that I struggled with most while reading Revolutionaries was that other than chronology, there was no through-line; Rakove would spend much of a chapter talking all about someone like John Dickinson and then never come back to him. I wasn’t able to connect with anyone he talked about.

Rakove won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997, which caused me to expect meaningful writing. As a whole, I was disappointed, but in two brief sections, Rakove drew me in. The first was a discussion about Americans’ difficulty reconciling the good things Thomas Jefferson did with the fact that he owned slaves (and the terrible way he treated them); the other was on the 3/5s compromise.

Those two moments, and the fact that a Revolutionary War buff would probably like the book, cause me to give Revolutionaries a 2/5. But, read at your own risk. I am not a fan.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Jack Rakove

Buy the book.

It's DEAR Day. So Drop Everything and Read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Remember Me

Back in March, when previews for Remember Me were on TV all the time, I commented that I couldn’t figure out what the movie was about, but I knew it was something I wouldn’t want to see. And then Robert Pattinson went on the Daily Show. So on Friday, I spent two hours watching the movie, and, even after finishing, I couldn’t really tell you what it’s about.

Here’s my best shot. Tyler (Pattinson) is a depressed young adult dealing with his brother’s suicide, his rocky relationship with his father (Pearce Brosnan), and general malaise. After Tyler gets in a fight with a cop, his roommate Aidan (Tate Ellington) dares him to ask out the cop’s daughter, Ally (Emilie de Ravin). Tyler does, and the two begin a relationship.

The thing is, throughout the entire movie, I was trying to figure out what story they were trying to tell. The sappy piano heavy score and Pattinson’s brooding made it clear they were going for a Notebookesque vibe, but there was no real plot. In the last 15 minutes of the movie an attempt was made to justify why these people’s lives were important, but it didn’t succeed. The twist seemed gimmicky and was a cheap way to get people emotions.

Even taking account that they were not given much to work with, the actors certainly did not impress me. It was abundantly clear that the actors with the three largest parts (Pattinson, Brosnan, and de Ravin) were all foreigners putting on American accents. Patinson’s was good and Brosnan had only a few slip-ups, but de Ravin’s was just horrible to the level of distraction.

As you may expect, Remember Me gets a 1/5. Though making fun of it is enjoyable, it’s not enough to make it worth watching.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Robert Pattinson

Buy the DVD


Tune into the Daily Shill every weekday this week for a new review. Still to come, my thoughts on Revolutionaries, The Kids Are All Right, Losers, and (probably) The Big Short.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Other Guys

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like The Other Guys. As much as I love Will Ferrell, the previews made it look stupid, and not in a good way. I was pleasantly surprised last week, then, when my family saw The Other Guys and realized it was quite funny.

The premise: Partners Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are detectives with the NYPD who, rather than going out and getting bad guys, are stuck in the office doing paperwork. Gamble loves this lifestyle; Hoitz hates it. He also hates Gamble. But after the deaths of the department’s star crime-fighters (the perfectly-cast Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson), Hoitz sees an opening and manages to get Gamble to join him in investigating a jewelry heist. Of course, everything is not what it seems, and the two become wrapped up in a corporate fraud case.

Ferrell, as to be expected, is a delight – practically everything out of the man’s mouth makes me laugh. And Wahlberg stood his own, not only as a straight-man, but also making jokes of his own.

One of the things I appreciated most about The Other Guys was that its jokes were not directed to a particular demographic: there were broad laugh-lines, silliness, and smart jokes. The lines that made my family laugh were different than the ones that made the people behind us laugh, but we all found the movie funny.

Though The Other Guys is clearly meant to be a comedy about action movies, rather than an action movie itself, it doesn’t let that stop it from having plenty of car chases, fights, and explosions. The movie lost me a bit in those sections – I would choose comedy over action in a heartbeat – but I can see why others would enjoy it.

Though I would never describe The Other Guys as a political movie, it does comment on the irresponsibility of Wall Street. Within the movie are a few digs at the SEC, and over the closing credits, graphics illustrate statistics of the misuse of bailout money and the disparity between CEOs and other workers. I never would have guessed that The Other Guys would remind me so much of some of the economy-centered books that I’ve read this year.

In the end, I’m giving The Other Guys a 3/5 (though it’s on the higher end of the “3-scale”). It’s worth seeing once, but not more than that.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Will Ferrell

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

War

Sebastian Junger, over the course of 15 months, took five trips to observe and live with a platoon fighting in Afghanistan. He made a documentary, Restrepo, based on his time there, as well as writing a book, War.

War is unexpectedly politics-free, which allows the focus to be on the soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan rather than on an argument about whether or not they should be there in the first place. By emphasizing the brotherhood among the soldiers and showing their day-to-day life (the fighting and the boredom), Junger presents a new perspective on the soldiers fighting for the US.

The book is loosely organized into three sections: “Fear,” “Killing,” and “Love.” To tell the truth, I couldn’t see how many of the related incidents fit into those categories (particularly in the “Love” section), but it didn’t complicate the reading. Despite his jumps in chronology and subject, Junger avoids choppy narration, and, somehow, the entire book seems to flow. My one complaint is that he doesn’t define many of the military terms he uses, which sometimes made it difficult for me to understand.

War is a gripping book, a quick read, and one that I definitely recommend, particularly for people like me who don’t know much about what a modern soldiers life is like. It gets a 4/5.

Watch Jon Stewart's interview with Sebastian Junger

Buy the book

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Coming Population Crash

The Coming Population Crash and our Planet’s Surprising Future looked like it was going to be a book filled with doom and gloom about how we were all going to die. That was not the case. Fred Pearce, the author, presents a warning about how our planet may not be able to continue to support us, but also shows how we could prevent this from happening.

The Coming Population Crash begins with historical information about previous fears of overpopulation and birthrates of the past. Pearce then continues to give portraits of various countries’ current fertility rates and struggles with population (whether it be too high or too small), and finishes the book with various ways our future could turn out.

What I liked best about The Coming Population Crash is that it taught me things I didn’t know, but, unlike many of the other books that presented new information, I felt like I understood what I was taught. Pearce writes in a style that can be understood by all, and he avoids “science talk” even though his subject could certainly be discussed in that vernacular. Rather than sticking solely to the big picture, Pearce makes his points by focusing on particular countries, using individual people’s stories which make the problems much more tangible.

A book simply about population sounds like it might be boring; I certainly thought it would be. But a book about population also means a book about eugenics, about birth control, about one-child policy, about feminism, about poverty, about environmentalism, about immigration. And those things are all interesting.

I liked The Coming Population Crash a lot. It not only made me think, but it also made me want to keep reading. I was planning on rating it 4/5, but then I asked myself, “What kept it from getting a five?” and I had no answer. So, 5/5 it is. I recommend it.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Fred Pearce (It's a good one!)

Buy the book