Category Archives: Personal Updates

Hey. I’m still Alive.

It’s been about eight weeks since I’ve posted last, which is way too long for me. I’m used to posting (or try to post) once a week, but life got busy. It always does. I won’t bore with you details, but I can tell you that I have been reading and watching movies and writing, and these accounted for some of my time away.

This blog is to catch up on my August and early September and let you all know what I’ve been reading.

Books:
Part of the reason for so few posts in August was because I couldn’t finish several books in a row. This rarely happens, because I’m something of a completionist, as in; even when the book is bad, I tell myself I MUST finish it to properly have a perspective on it and “bitch.” Alas, there were books in August that I couldn’t review and spent a lot of time wasting by reading 1/3 or 1/2 of it, throwing it across the room, and picking up something else. Usually my batting average is better than this. I read a lot of killer books over the summer, but right at the end, I had the great misfortune of picking a few crappy ones in a row. They are as follows:

IN ONE PERSON by John Irving
Man, did this one piss me off. Over one hundred pages in, I finally had to give up on it. It went into a scatter-brained area of transgender  and sexual identity confusion, areas I’m mature enough to handle and appriciate, but it was executed in a crappy way. It was all over the place, the narrative and plot, well, I couldn’t find one. And I pressed on thinking that maybe I had been reading too much Y.A. and my ability to digest more complex adult literature had waned, but that was not the case with this book. I don’t know what he was trying to say with it, and with so many hundreds of pages, and it being one of his shorter ones, I can confidently say I am not a John Irving fan, though everyone in the literary sphere calls him one of America’s greatest living writers. I just don’t see it. Maybe it was true three decades ago. Not now.

STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL by Rachel Simon
A huge, huge let down. By the premise, it sound like an award worthy book, but this was another one that took way to long to get going, the structure of back and forth story telling of multiple plots was strange, and the dialogue and character descriptions never felt real. Just, overall, one to be avoided. I’m particularly mad about this one since I had heard the author being interviewed on NPR, and they made it sound phenomenal. The commentator went as far to say that it was the most touching and powerful book he had ever read in his life. I found a lot of clunk and filler. Maybe there was something magic past page 90, but I’ll never know. I’ll wait for the movie.

NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS:
My book haul from two months ago clearly stated that I was hitting up three other books as well; Seraphina, Partials, and The Night Circus. I can honestly say that, while it took me a long time to read, The Night Circus was one of the best books of 2011, and in hte top 10 of books I’ve personally read in 2012. It deserves all the praise for world building and creative atmosphere it has recieved, even though the ending DID leave us all wanting more. It’s not to be missed, and just for the journey, has some of the most beautifully descripted settings I’ve ever read, and I usually hate books like that. Please, visit this world!

On another note, Partials by Dan Wells is a Y.A. sci-fi that is almost not a Y.A. book. It’s long, it mature, it deals with a lot of human issues as any sci-fi should, but its peaks and valleys and pacing was not consistent. This was a 7/10 for me, but I can see people giving it a 6 or a 9 also, just depending on what other books you’ve read before, and likely, also how old you are. There were some setting issues where I had a hard time visualizing the space the world inhabited and there was some unique dialogue involving biological and military terminology that were either true-to-life but a tad confusing nonetheless, or was made up B.S. that people who are actually in the hospitals or the army are going to be able to shake their head at. Whatever the case, if you like future dystopian, we built clones of ourselves and now their rebelling kind of stuff, (and we need to help each other or “we” and “them” are all going to die out, check this one out.

Lastly, Seraphina: nothing to report here yet since I read other books instead of this one, but I’m going to read it before the new year.

Here’s a brief list of books I read since I’ve posted last and their grades according to me. I’m not reviewing each one since I wanna move forward and get into the Fall. In the future, I’ll be more on top of things.

  • BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Sepetys (3/5) * why do we not know this history *
  • AMY AND ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR by Matson (4.25/5) * sweet, and now I wanna travel *
  • THE GIVER by Lowry (3/5) * What’s the big deal? *
  • DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? by Dick (3.75/5) * Better than Blade Runner *
  • READY PLAYER ONE by Cline (4.5/5) * Favorite Adult Fic List for Me *
  • THIS IS NOT A TEST by Summers (2/5) * huge let down *
  • A MOSNTER CALLS by Ness (4/5) * Sad, heavy, sad, and sad *
  • EVERY DAY by Levithan (4.25/5) * Y.A. Top 10 this year *

So, I’ll be posting more in October, and rock on.

MH

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7/14/12 – Book Haul Update

Just a brief reminder, as much for myself as for you, about the books I’d like to read over the next 6 weeks before summer — sigh — ends.

  1. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  2. Partials by Dan Wells
  3. Seriphina by Rachel Hartman
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  5. Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
  6. In One Person by John Irving

Check ’em out before I do.

MH

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“If I Stay” by Gayle Forman: a book review (and a personal introspection)

“…Dying is easy. Living is hard.”

This is one of the best books I will ever read in YA. Read it in a day, by yourself, and then let this one simmer. Girl gets in horrific car accident in chapter one, most of family dies, she has an out of body experience following her body and loved ones around the hospital, and using a potent flashback device we relive with Mia the years leading up to this point.

Her choice is this: leave this world, or stay?

Wow.

It’s not with out minor faults, but when you read it cover to cover, you’ll understand the high rating. Forget the cover art, forget the stupid “Twilight” quote from USA today for marketing purposes… just read.

A heavy tale that exemplifies great modern meta-fiction done right to connect with its target audience. “If I Stay” (released in 2009) houses references to rock-and-roll magazines, CBGBs in NYC, a plethora of 70s and 80s figure heads like Patti Smith and Debbie Harry, and punk rock bands like Weezer, Nirvana, and the Ramones, Batman, television shows, celebrities, movie references, and Harry Potter, The Great Gatsby, and Lord of the Flies. But ultimately, it’s about family, love, and why you should live your crazy life.

Yes, making too many modern pop-culture references in your story can often promise the novel will age poorly or just always hearken back to the time period in which it was written in, but when dealing with the Young Adult genre, it’s wise when doing realistic and dramatic teen fiction to put the characters firmly in the here-and-now; to force the reader to reflect and empathize with the characters in the novel who seem to be inhabiting their own familiar world. Yes, as the years pass, tales using this ploy may not be as affective or relatable for future generations, but in the case of “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman, not only is it crucial, but it’s done masterfully and balanced and graceful. It’s a book for today’s cultural environment and youth and makes no excuses or apologies for it. It’s done well.

Another book will be written by another author years from now for the next generation. This one is for the kids born roughly between 1980-2000. Awesome, awesome message of hope and love that never, ever feels forced. Gayle, fucking bravo, girl!

On the down side (and there is very little to criticize about this book): three issues. One: The early description of the car wreck and the graphic details are a bit much and not necessary. Two: the elitist, scene hipster character, Brooke Vega, though not in the story for long, was an unrealistic personification of the punk landscape, thrown in specifically for humor and stood as a cheap, lazy construction of a very dead part of early seventies era glam-punk. Young teens in Portland, Oregon would never have and don’t have rock gods like this anymore. The descriptions and the dialogue this character spouted pulled me out of the story and rang untrue.

Which leads us to the final complaint: in a story that is so short, there may be too much “insider-type” referential material, two or three too many call-back and shout-outs to obscure sub-cultures which most 15-23 year olds would never know about in any way, shape, or form unless they harbor very curious niche tastes or their parents were born in the seventies, grew up in the eighties, and pummeled their kids in the nineties with tons of rock trivia. I know about it because I’m a punk rock junkie, but not everyone might. I’m turning 27 soon, and I listen to punk from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s; I pride myself on being the person in my group of friends who knows everything about punk rock’s evolution. I even own some of the better documentaries on DVD on the subject, okay? Me. Dork.

Part of this story was very cathartic for me on a personal level. Yeah, I’m gonna get personal on you now. The dad of Mia and his story closely mirrors my own. The parents are in their thirties, and that’s where I’m headed in less than five years, and the dad’s whole back story (the localized popularity while never getting big famous, releasing the CDs, doing the summer tours, then giving up, putting on a tie, and getting a real job) is exactly what I am. Even down to the eerie detail of how the dad’s bands were somehow popular in Japan and fans offered up their houses if they would fly from America to play in Japan. This happened to my band “Flash Grenade” except with fans in London and, strangely, Australia. I honestly thought Gayle Forman read my diary.

 

circa 2006

circa 2007

circa 2006 again

To make it doubly freaky, I too have considered becoming a teacher since my wife and I are talking about having kids in a few years. Then Gramps says how Mia’s father wrote lyrics like poems and he thought he’d be a writer someday. I have a book on Amazon. I wrote lyrics for my band like short stories. Mind-fudged… that’s what I got. Never has a book done this to me. Page 152-160 shook my soul.

circa 2009

It was tricky to read some of these parts. I’m a push-over to begin with: I’m a hopeless romantic, I don’t shy away from sad thoughts or introspection, so when I saw what I could be in a few years, I was struck with a volley of contrasting and opposing ideas, stirring up long buried philosophies about my life and my choices. I still secretly breathe the punk scene. It made me think: would it be sadder to leave those hard decisions of “moving on” in the past, or is it sadder for a librarian and shoe salesman to reattempt slam dunks when he hasn’t touched a court for years?

From 2004-2010, during the reign of Flash Grenade, (yes, on iTunes) I was sure music would be my life, and then, suddenly, it couldn’t be and wasn’t for several reasons. We made thousands of dollars and hundreds of memories in a few short years. Now it’s over. One day, I was going to open for Green Day, right? Of course I was. Just a matter of time, right?

In the end, I guess I’m saying this book hit home on a personal note and made it really real for me – I could honestly relate to at least half the characters and empathize with them.

And then I continued to the final fifty pages of this novel and was blown away by how powerful and honest it was. This book is surely one of the best in recent years. Period.

This YA book for older teens (15+ I’d guess) is not even 200 pages long but pack a punch, keeps those pages turning, and has some wonderfully fleshed out and dimensional characters—further proof that size and page-count of the book isn’t everything when crafting excellent fiction. It’s haunting; it’s true to life, honest about punks and alternative culture (for the most part) and portrays self-doubt and first loves realistically.

The ending of this book is incredible. Must-Read, not just for girls, but for all. I will be reading the sequel, Where She Went (last year’s goodreads.com winner for best YA novel).

5/5
MH

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2012 Half-Way Recap: January – June Blog Review

2012 is almost half over.

I’m scared, too.

But in lieu of our inevitable ends, June marks the six month point, and I invite you to take a look back at the films and books I’ve reviewed thus far. Below is the list of months I recommend opening into new tabs, just to take a peek.

Enjoy:

JanuaryThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Chuck Palahniuk, The Descendants, and more.

FebruaryHugo, the Hunger Games, and more.

March The Fault in Our Stars, The Sense of an Ending, As I Lay Dying, and more.

April – My own novel “The Ghost of Casablanca”, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Blood Red Road, a Green Day analysis, and more.

May – The Avengers Movie, The Glass Castle, Kurt Vonnegut, John Green, The Maze Runner, Clockwork Angel and more.

JuneSnow White and the Huntsman Movie, The Things They Carried, Graceling (coming later this month), and more.

Keep checking in! More movie reviews and book reviews coming soon, including:

  • Prometheus (In theaters June 8th)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (in theaters July 20th)
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgensten
  • To the Lighthouse by Viginia Woolf

Absorb everything…. it all has value.

MH

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Movies to See: Summer 2012 Heads Up

Short and sweet and after some mild deliberation, I’ve conceived a list of the five movies you must see this summer. They are varied, they are going to be great, and I will put money on it. Yes, there are going to be a ton of movies in June, July and August, and maybe some of them will be “good”, but only a few will be great — worth that $10-12 dollar ticket price for the big screen treatment and seeing it with friends.

Here is that Must-See list:

  1. Prometheus (June 8th)
  2. Brave (June 22nd)
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 7th)
  4. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20th)
  5. Total Recall (August 8th)

Honorable Mentions (a.k.a.: the Maybes and the Rental-worthy):

  1. Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1st)
  2. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22nd)
  3. Ted (July 13th)

It’s a light summer, but maybe that’s a good thing. With the month of May coming quickly to a close, there’s some good stuff coming at us at a manageable pace. If you can, like me, go to a midnight showing of any of these films if you’ve never experienced it before: sometimes, it can be a great moment for a large community. Other times, you’re just sitting in a room with loud, sweaty assholes. Choose your film wisely. Me? I’m Dark Knight all the way. That crowd will be nuts.

MH

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“The Ghost of Casablanca” by Matthew Hughston

I’ve just released my first novel.

If it sounds interesting, please roll the dice and support my self-published book. It’s based on a screenplay I worked on in my last two years of college and I then spent 10 months writing this “adaptation” of it. It’s about ideas, the gray areas of life, our powerlessness to change the world, and self-righteous superheroes doomed to tragedy.

I think it’s damn good work and there’s a take-away message to it. For fans of adventure/thrillers, with a bit of mystery and romance all veiled as a philosophical/political anti-hero tale. If you like Batman or Watchmen, get it.

It’s available at the link below for 12 dollars:

https://www.createspace.com/3835035

MH

Official site: www.wix.com/matthewhughston/book

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Personal Update: 4/17/12

So, hey kids! LOL

I don’t do many of these personal updates, but in the past few months I’ve received a few more “followers”, a steady amount of hits everyday, and I just wanted to say “Hi” and thank you for your interest.

I guess it is paying off to write about different forms of media and genre-types, because unless a blogger is really specialized in an area of expertise, I don’t like blogs that only do “classic books” or “action films” or “pop music.”

I find blogs to be a great way to share something very personal about your interests and thoughts with strangers, and it’s really fun and liberating for me. By posting such different things, I never know how things are going to be interpreted and I love the dialogue that somehow starts from a very little blurb, springing into a conversation between two or more people in a comment thread which get everyone thinking differently. I love that.

So I just wanted to say that I’m going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing, and I wanted to give you guys a little bit of info about who I am and what I’m getting into in the next few months.

SCHOOL:

I’m now 26. Former band manager and frontman for a pop/punk/rock group (2004-2010). So, after a decade of food service, retail, music stores, and Blockbuster jobs, I was 25 years old last May when I finally graduated college after 7 long years of school. No, I’m not a doctor — just unsure of what I wanted, mixed with an incompetent registration procedure for classes, adding forever “another semester” while touring the East Coast and recording albums. With a chip on my shoulder, I graduated with a Film and Media Studies degree with a focus in screenwriting. I’m now a full-time employee in a Maryland County Library System, doing book discussions, film discussions, and pretty much having fun all the time and getting paid the most I’ve ever been paid thanks to my degree. Swish. 3 points.

BOOKS:

Which naturally brings us to books. I recommend that you take a look at my “Books To Read Next” tab on the top of the page and give a look to upcoming books I will be starting soon or have already started. Being part of the library system, I get a lot of free books with no due dates. Comment in that area if you have book recommendations of your own. I read YA, mostly literary fiction (classic and contemporary), adventure, some sci-fi, and historical 19th and 20th Century fiction. Every now and then, I dabble in Biographies or radical Non-Fiction, like Blink by Gladwell, Bill Bryson yarns, and Christopher Plummer, Joan Didion, Patti Smith, and/or Michael Caine Bios. They gotta be old, and have a lot to say. I don’t care about some 35-year old’s memoir. What the f*** have they seen? Not much yet. LOL

MOVIES:

I will be blogging about this particular topic soon because; (a) I’ve been focusing mostly on books of late; and (b) this summer 2012 is sizing up to be one of the best summers for a films in about 5-years. There is something of quality for everyone this summer! Like, really good.

MY ORIGINAL WORK:

So I wrote a novel. Time to plug my own work. I’ve been writing screenplays for four years now, and fiction, both short and long, for about two years. All of my work has been sent out to various publishing magazines and agents in their respective fields. I’ve only just started doing this heavily in 2012. No bites yet of course, and I don’t expect their to be anytime very soon. I’ve read enough books on the business and craft of writing to know that you need tough skin to ride out to get the good waves. Don’t forget: JK Rowling was denied over 7 or 8 times for over a year before anyone gave her little Harry Potter book a second glance. Look at her now. You gotta have tough skin and always strive to be better and learn. That goes for a lot in life, in fact.

So please, give my books a look. I have a novella When the Dark Sun Shines (the first), a collection of short stories and poems Small Doors to Big Spaces (the second and most versatile), and now , the strongest, my first full-length novel The Ghost of Casablanca (the third).

You can find them all for purchase or read their synopses by browsing this site: http://www.wix.com/matthewhughston/book

Or you can search “Matthew Hughston” on Amazon.com. The novel “The Ghost of Casablanca “is out May 1st, 2012 and may not pop up yet when you search for it there. You can get it through the link above though.

It’s quality stuff, and if you don’t believe, comment in the box below and I’ll send you the first three chapters of the novel or a duo of short stories for your consideration.

Just a nice guy, I is, eh? LOL

MH

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Thoughts on Music: Green Day circa 2009-2012

A band I loved finally fell into everything they used to stand against. They are unrecognizable. Blame aging, having families, “growing up”, maturing as an artist—but something rubs me wrong. Maybe it shouldn’t because this band was at it for so long and deserve the recognition more than most, but they deserve the recognition for what they “did”, not what they “are” doing now. They made it for more years than most with my undying love, but alas, now my fondness is a memory for a trio of men at a certain time of their career, not the entire expanse of it.

It happened in 2009, NOT 2004 according to popular belief.

When I say “Rock opera about How The World Is A Bit Messed Up And Stuff And How America Is, Like, Evil”, what band do you think of? Hint: It rhymes with Green Day.

“21st Century Breakdown”, for me, was their big chance to show they didn’t need to ride the coat tails of “American Idiot” and write something radically different. I don’t know why they didn’t.

Like all albums put out by this important and well-known band, they were all different and pushed their sound in new directions. Even when they weren’t popular from 2000 until most of 2004 they always did exactly what they wanted (i.e. Warning and Shenanigans). I saw them perform in 2001 and I really believe that was the last time they were “them.” I am 26 now.

I own all the albums and can stand by the claim that they always tried new things… until “21st Century Breakdown”. To put it politely, some of it is salvageable, some of it is creative, but mostly, it’s the first album where they didn’t change anywhere near enough from the last album. Seriously, the majority of people I talk to find it exhausting to listen to this very long, droning, too-much-piano, songs-built-the-same, album. Individually tracks are great to put on a long-drive-mix-CD-for-your-car. But, who has an hour and ten minutes? It’s like they refused to trim it down and threw in all the B-sides when it could have been a tighter, shorter album. Seriously, take out five of these tracks.

in hollywood CA 2004 tour

I remind you, I built my life around this band for a decade, from the age of 11 until 21. I sung like Billie Joe for years, and I had a band “Flash Grenade” (one of the three albums now on iTunes) make thousands of dollars from 2004-2010 because of the inspiration I got from them. We played their covers. I respect these guys. But they’re wearing me thin.

I’m writing this because of two things. One: I read a blog by another guy about how they’re sellouts. Well, people have been saying that about a bunch of huge bands for years. That argument can’t be won no matter who you are talking about or to. It’s not worth having or listing reasons. The second reason I’m writing this is I’ve just gotten wind that they are writing a new album. No doubt it will come parading into all of our radios whether we like it or not, like “Boulevard of Broken
Dreams” which the replay frequency made me hate. My biggest issue is that, simply, there are other bands out there now and we should spread our attention around to them. The next album will be a big deal… well… just because we all expect it to be.

So first things first, here’s a few blurbs from the “haters” site I’m having a hard time disagreeing with:

“Then ‘American Idiot’ suddenly ate the world and within what felt like the space of a few months, Green Day had reinvented themselves. A whole new generation of kids – who went to their shows for ‘Holiday’ and ‘American Idiot’ and remained silent for ‘When I Come Around’ because they didn’t know it, which is pretty cool if you think about it – discovered them and the really, REALLY big leagues came calling.”

“It’s that the Green Day of 2009 are eminently hateable, three self-proclaimed spokespeople for a generation that didn’t ask to be spoken for who ramble in broad strokes and who’ve turned into as much of a commercialized product as everything they used to rail against. Hell, if The Killers acted in the way Billie Joe and co do, no one would bat an eyelid. And there’s no doubt that ‘American Idiot’ was, on the surface at least, a brave statement in a time when they didn’t have to make one.”

“America has changed, the world has changed. There’s nothing worse than a band who believes their own hype, and that’s exactly what Green Day appear to be doing. Like a reformed drug addict who can’t shut up about how much better life is now they’re clean, Billie Joe seems to think that after writing a couple of socio-political couplets he’s now qualified to pass judgment on an entire generation.”

For the whole article, which gives a fair assessment and opinion, click here: http://www.nme.com/blog/index.php?blog=134&title=green_day_are_back_yawn_yawn_yawn&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

So now let’s talk about this album they’re working on. I first heard about it on one of my favorite sites, www.punknews.org . Again, they are describing it in the vaguest of ways and I am terrified. Plus, who knows how many years this one will take. I was disappointed when I waited just over four years for “21st Century” and felt only “so-so” about it. Some good songs, some bad.

So the articles below show the broad, generalized way they’re talking about their new songs, much like a republican candidate describes how he is actually going to carry out specific ideas and make certain plans come to fruition. It’s so vague. Billie Joe says stuff like the following, actual quotes:

“we’re literally dealing with a new sound and it’s fucking with my head.”

Click here for that story and that video update: http://www.punknews.org/article/46668

Also, he says here: 

“I think it’s so personal and so voyeuristic. I mean, this is the first time we’ve ever really sung about fucking.”

http://www.punknews.org/article/46361

All I have to say is… what…? I’m sure you can find other places online where he poetically describes shadows and dust, power chords and poor people, bananas and the importance of voting.

LOL.

Even Mike Dirnt says:

“the songs are gonna blow their fucking minds”

That’s cocky. Straight up. I would never say that at any point in my music career, which I’m kind of glad is over/in hiatus for the moment if it could gradually turn into… Green Day circa 2009-2011 if given enough time.

*shudders*

The unfortunate truth is, I feel like when I listen to them talk about politics and they make every fucking song a “message”, I just hear three kids who didn’t go to college, now 40 years old or whatever, talking about issues in unclear, indistinct, uninspired, fuzzy ways, like they get all of their information from the Daily Show on Comedy Central or what they saw in two-seconds on a subway poster. I guess that’s what I get since I went to college and their broad socio-political statements hit me in the face like a pair of balls. No one more than themselves (!) has bought into their rising-from-the-ashes-with-Pheonix-reborn-importance; especially Billie Joe. Maybe he feels like he owes to all of us to do something “important.” It’s like, gulp, Anti-Flag. I’d like a rock show, not a protest rally, unless you have really, really, really good shit to say and we’re actually going to take some fucking action after the show and not just buy 30 dollar tour shirts and go home filled with Redbull and have sex. There has to be more than that or else it’s masturbation for the soul, it is lip service for an idea that sounds nice with no follow through. And that makes me agitated.

I don’t think this band is consciously selling-out for any real purpose of increased cash flow. They just changed into something banal and benign and they seem to enjoy it. Hey, they love their job more than you or I and they seem to be having fun. God Bless them, but I’m not paying for their next $90 ticket price tour with U2 and the Black Eyed Peas. That’s just a guess.

Time will tell. Can’t wait for single numero uno, probably in Spring 2013.

Fuck it. I’m gonna go listen to “Insomniac” from ’95.

No matter how much they change, the old albums stay the same, unless you’re George Lucas.

MH

 

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Thoughts on Music: The Scene I Grew Up With and Where it is Now

Pop-punk. That’s what this unusual blog is about. I know I often do books and sometimes movies, but I’ve decided to start a new segment for the occasional music that gallops through my world. While “Harder Punk” is what I often grew up on, and while I listen to several genres within and outside of punk, I grew up with “pop-punk” (i.e. Sum-41, Green Day, Blink 182) and on this rare occasion, I wanted to share three new albums that are hitting our world this Spring 2012. For old time’s sake.

“Thoughts on Music” will be a segment I try to do once a month from now on.

MXPX:

After 7 years of mediocrity, and way too many cover albums, compilation albums, and needless DVDs, their ninth (9th) studio album marks the bands 26th, yes, twenty-sixth! release (EPs and Best Ofs and Live albums included) in 18 years. This one, honestly, is a return to some 90s sound while keeping some early 2000s energy. If you didn’t like “Before Everything & After” (2003) or “Secret Wepon” (2007) but you did like “Panic” (2005) or “Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo” (1998) — this newest release, “Plans Within Plans” is for you.

Yes, I had given up on them years ago too, but I listened and I was surprised. It has the energy of the live album “At The Show” (1999) and is thankfully nothing like the side projects Mike has been wasting time with for years (i.e. “Tumbledown”).

Enjoy.

I’ve ordered this MXPX CD after hesitation, as well as Pennywise’s new “All or Nothing”. Two old school bands I grew up with that, surprisingly, brought the goods. Even with their new lead vocalist (the original and long-standing beloved now gone) this band still captures me in someway, AND has done some slightly different stuff with aggression and song design. Again, I’m surprised. I guess I’ve been being cynical.

But stay away from Anti-Flag’s “The General Strike.” I’m tired of history lessons and bass runs. I’m too old for that shit. While once in love with them, I’m 99% sure that love is for the majority of their 2000s catalog only where they became better as musicians than the 90s and put out the cacthiest stuff. I’m a sucker for a sing-a-long. Fuck off. These days, it’s just a 30-minute preach on compact disc. And the lyric booklets are like little textbooks — homework packed with linear notes about legislation from your favorite punk band. That would be fine if they left it just in the booklets or online, but a third of their sets are talking, talking, talking. I’ve seen them three times. I know what I’m talking about.

MH

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Most Notable Books of 2011

Notable Fiction and Non-Fiction books that got really hyped up (deserved or not) and were on many Magazine’s “TOP 10” Lists or were National Best Sellers:

  • FICTION:
  • “The Submission” by Amy Waldman
  • “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami
  • “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht
  • “Stone Arabia” by Dana Spiotta
  • “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen
  • “Room” by Emma Donoghue
  • “The Art of Feilding” by Chad Harbach
  • “Close Your Eyes” by Amanda Ward
  • “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffery Eugenides
  • “There But For The” by Ali Smith
  • “Say Her Name” by Francisco Goldman
  • “Volt” by Alan Heathcock
  • “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern
  • “The Story of Beautiful Girl” by Rachel Simon
  • “The Call” by Yannick Murphy
  • NON – FICTION:
  • “Blue Nights” by Joan Didion
  • “Life Itself: A Memoir” by Roger Ebert
  • “Rin Tin Tin” by Susan Orlean
  • “Charles Dickens: A life” by Claire Tomalin
  • Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
  • “Bossypants” by Tina Fey

Books I conquered in 2011, Old and New (in no particular order):

  1. “The Alchemist” by P. Coelho
  2. “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht
  3. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. “Survivor” by Chuck Palahniuk
  5. “Passing” by Nella Larson
  6. “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami
  7. “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami
  8. “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton
  9. “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells
  10. “The Prince and the Pauper” by Mark Twain
  11. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
  12. “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
  13. “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
  14. “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro
  15. “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac
  16. “The Picture of Doran Gray” by Oscar Wilde
  17. “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess
  18. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
  19. “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
  20. “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink
  21. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath
  22. “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  23. “This Side of Paradise” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  24. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera
  25. “Play It As It Lays” by Joan Didion
  26. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
  27. “Lolita” by Vladmir Nabokov
  28. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling
  29. “Snuff” by Chuck Palahniuk
  30. “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

Holy Crap. Thirty books. Pretty good for me one year, considering I usually average fifteen. I started reading like a beast in January 2011 for an American Fiction course in my final semester of college and never looked back. I have never read this many books in one year in my life, and truthfully, some of these are the greatest books ever written and belong amoung the Top 100 of All Time.

Of the Above 30, her are my “Magic Seven” I will probably read again in my lifetime:

Lolita, Brave New World, The Alchemist, The Bell Jar, The Reader, Norwegian Wood, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

 

Finally, a brief list of things on my “to do” list, or, things I’ve already started for 2012:

  • “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami
  • “The Art of Feilding” by Chad Harbach
  • “A Farwell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway
  • “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
  • “The Descendants” by Kaui H. Hemmings
  • “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Hurston
  • “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
  • “The Story of Beautiful Girl” by Rachel Simon
  • “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen

Read and Grow.

MH

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Filed under Best/Worst Lists, Book Reviews, Personal Updates