Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In The Company of Heroes

I have a Kindle now and I love it.  Best investment I've made since buying gold early last year.  I've already read several books and thanks to the Kindle Owner's Lending Library and Amazon's Daily Deals, I've discovered some great stuff, and also quite a few disappointments.

The Settlers of Catan - seriously, it's a book now!  Rebecca Gable, a German historical writer took the classic board game elements and set it up as the Nordic settlement in Iceland in the 10th century.  As literature it wasn't that great, but I was curious to see how the elements of the game will be woven into the book.  To be honest, it was fairly disappointing.  Not recommended.

Earth Strike: Star Carrier: Book 1 - Famed military sci-fi and space opera writer returns to what made him famous - humans on the brink of obliteration from an all-powerful galactic empire.  This is no Battlestar Gallactica - this is unadulterated space battles with singularity drives and "kinetic-kill" nuclear tipped Krait missle stuff.  Pretty fun stuff, but again, not recommended.

Call for the Dead - John Le Carre - Where it all began, with the introduction of George Smiley - the slovenly looking unassuming spy, whose ex-wife lovingly called him toad becaue he looked like one.  The precursor to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  This is where is starts.  Seems ancient by modern spy standards (What, no GPS tracking devices? It's 1966!)  Brings me back to the classic noir writings of Mickey Spillane and co.  Great stuff if you're interested in clandestine genre.

Finally, In the Company of Heroes - Mike Durant.  Black Hawk Down is one of my favorite war movies of all time.  Nothing else comes close to bringing the science, chaos and horror of modern warfare to cinema and Mike Durant brings alive his tale of being a Somali POW in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 with amazing candor.  Rivetting read.  I think I'm going to pick up Bowden's Black Hawk Down after I finish this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dry Land and Other Stories

The work week was hard, so of course, distractions were necessary.  Here's what's distracting me now.

King Henry is back at The Emirates.  Unfortunately, Sir Robert will not be joining him - but he might come to India!  Whoa.  Move over India vs. Bayern Munich and testimonial matches.  What a great night though at the JN Stadium.  Poor Baichung, not the best farewell match to have.  Final score 4-0...

Granted Bjork has done some decent music, but most of the time I can't tell the difference between Bjork, Yoko Ono, and a seal whose flipper has been smashed into a car door.  Still, even without Bjork and the economic crisis music from Iceland survives.  They gave us Sigur Ros - check out their fantastic documentary "Heima" - here's a taste of their music.  There was also Ryoksopp in between.  Then they gave us Bloodgroup.  Their first album "Sticky Situation" was tonally harsher with a lot of heavy synth sounds (well they are an electro pop group so I should have expected that), but their second album "Dry Land" is a bloody revelation.  Beautifully arranged with lounging Enyaesque vocals.  Great stuff, definitely warrants a listen.  Here's a couple of my picks from the album:
"This Heart" and "Wars"... don't want to give the rest away.  And if you think these guys hide behind distortion have a listen to this version of "This Heart" at the GogoYoko Studio.

Shravan introduced me to the wonderfully quirky and funny world of David Sedaris - a comic writer - yet insight-fully cynical and sarcastic.  Presently reading "Me Talk Pretty One Day".

Maggie brought Neon's "Skydiver" as my staple office work listen.  You won't be able to get your hands on this easily since Neon only released this as a 12" LP vinyl single.  Trippy seven minutes.  Reminds me of Japanese DJ Quadra's "Get it by Your Hands".

Of course, what's been making the rounds even faster than "Kolaveri Di" is Walk of the Earth's cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" - over 11 million views in a week!  What a fantastic video - do have a listen.

Ok, everyone says this is one of the most overplayed songs of 2011, but I only discovered it recently.  Yes, it is Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks".  While the original might be over-played, I discovered two amazing covers.  The first a bluesy take by internet sensation Karmin, and the second by a one-man-band internet sensation Basement Alchemy.  Have a listen!

That's all folks!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

What Am I Tripping On Now?

Ok, ever since CJ introduced me to Project Free TV, I've been tripping on NCIS - yes, the TV show.  I was curious.  Why is a crime procedural drama, the most popular prime time TV show in the US.  We have shows that deal with the military (JAG, Combat Hospital), we have shows that deal with forensics (CSI and it's million avatars), we have quirky crime solving team shows (The Mentalist, Castle, Bones), so why is NCIS drawing the crowds?  I've watched six and a half seasons now, and I still can't answer that question.  I just keep watching, though I'm not sure why.  Sure, the plots are relatively mysterious, the forensics are quite hocus-pocus, the characters are endearing and well drawn out, but it's no The Wire, or Battlestar Gallactica, nor is it M*A*S*H.  Yet, I keep watching.  A mystery...

I have, however, discovered an Israeli hip-hop, funk band through NCIS called Hadag Nahash (roughly translates to either The Fish Snake, or A New Direction).  They've been accused of left-leaning politics in their songs (which is true), but they shit out some catchy stuff - much like our "Kolaveri Di" craze.

Check out some of their stuff:
"Shirat Hastikar (The Sticker Song)" - This was written by famed Israeli novelist David Grossman.
"Bella Bellissima" - based on a true story.
And, of course, "Kolaveri Di" - which drove a nation crazy for one fall and produced a dozen offsprings.

I've also been tripping on the writings of A.J. Jacobs - the editor-at-large for Esquire magazine.  I first heard about this fellow when I caught him on a TED talk about the year he spent following every tenant in the Bible.  Since then I've read most of his stuff.  I really identify with his childlike experimental mentality and sense of adventure in writing.  The tendency we have of doing things so that we can write/tell other people about it.  Check out some of his "stunt journalism".  http://www.esquire.com/search/?q=A.J.+Jacobs

New trip: An article by mathematician and teacher Paul Lockhart - "A Mathematician's Lament".  A cry of despair about the way mathematics is taught, and has been taught for the better part of the century - curbing creative instincts and replacing them with rigorous techniques or procedures.  He claims math should be taught as an art, not as a tool for engineers.  While I don't agree with everything he says, I do feel that school curriculum ignores "historical context" and appreciation of mathematics, something, both I, and the author feel very passionate about.  It's a great read:

"You Make A Move Where Your Opponent Will Be, Not Where He Is..."

Bobby Fischer: The Knight Who Killed The Kings.  A free web comic about the life and games of one of the greatest chess maestros.  This isn't a glowing epithet about how brilliant Bobby Fischer was, nor is it nitpicking his flaws, neurosis, and paranoia.  It's a good comic, telling a good story with very French New Fave art work and a human Boris Spassky.  As of right now, only three chapters are up, but they are worth the time.