Category: Book

Book reviews

Review: You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me

Cover of "You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me"
Cover of You Don’t Know Me, But You Don’t Like Me

I always have enjoyed Nathan Rabin’s writing — first at the AV Club and now at The Dissolve.  His memoir The Big Rewind was outstanding, as was his book on Weird Al.  (And, of course, his My Year Of Flops project for the AV Club and turned into a book itself.)  One thing that does make me sad about him writing at The Dissolve is that site is devoted to film — and while a brilliant film writer, Rabin’s wonderful at all types of pop culture.  I’d been excited for his most recent book, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me since he teased it in some of his articles for the AV Club about Insane Clown Posse and the Gathering of the Juggalos.  Honestly, it was right up my alley — I love Rabin and I find the Juggalos fascinating.  (And, though I’m not a fan of ICP, I think the Juggalos tend to get a bit of undeserved shit.) Continue reading

Review: Exploding The Phone

Cover of Exploding The Phone
Cover of Exploding the Phone by Phil Lapsley

This almost feels like a companion volume to The Idea Factory — the other side of the phone company.  Phil Lapsley’s book, Exploding the Phone, is an absolutely fascinating book on the history of phone phreaking, or exploring the phone network (and hacking it). The phone system, back in the days of analog, was made up of switches thrown by tones and was considered the world’s largest machine.  The phone phreaks figured out how this machine worked and started figuring out the tones necessary to do different things.  It wasn’t all about getting free calls, but about exploration.  (Though, the free calls were their own siren song that couldn’t be ignored either.) Continue reading

Review: Mindsploitation

Cover of Mindsploitation

I never thought that there could be a book adaptation of Final Flesh, but then Vernon Chatman follows that film up with Mindsploitation, which… kinda is.  With Final Flesh, he found a couple of porn studios that would let you write up your own 15-20 minute script and for a certain amount of money, they’d film it — so he wrote a few surrealist shorts to be shot, which he then edited into a film.  In Mindsploitation, the porn studios have been replaced by the oldest Internet profession: Companies that will do your homework for you.   Continue reading

Review: What I’d Say To The Martians

Cover of "What I'd Say to the Martians: A...
Cover via Amazon

When I was younger, for whatever reason, I thought that Jack Handey was actually Al Franken.  The idea that Jack Handey — known most for the “Deep Thoughts” segments on Saturday Night Live — was a pseudonym is a surprisingly common one.  But later, I discovered that the idea that he was Al Franken in particular was also pretty common.  Al Franken even wrote a foreword where he declared that many people thought that he was Jack Handey — he’s not, and Jack Handey is a real guy — but why Al Franken in particular? That’s something I’d really like to know.  “Jack Handey” sounds kind of like a made-up name itself (especially that “Handey” is a misspelled version of an everyday word, and coupled with “Jack” just makes it sounds vaguely dirty), but why do people think that it’s made up by Al Franken?  Why did I think he was Al Franken? Continue reading

Review: Making WET

WETI guess I have a soft-spot for weird, short-lived magazines.  I’ve talked about how much I love RAW here before, and now I’ve just read Leonard Koren’s book Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing about, well, making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing.  That was probably pretty obvious. Unlike RAW, though, I’ve never seen a copy of WET — but I was hipped to it when MetaFilter ran an incredibly interesting piece on it.  Once I read the articles linked, I knew I had to have this book.

I wasn’t disappointed. Continue reading

Review: The Idea Factory

Cover of The Idea Factory by Jon GertnerBell Labs was awesome, and Jon Gertner’s new book The Idea Factory sets out to prove this simple fact.  The Bell Laboratories (funded by AT&T when they were a government-sanctioned monopoly) was the place where vacuum tubes were improved and ultimately replaced by another Bell Labs invention, the transistor.  The labs went from creating ways to treat wood so telephone poles would last a very, very long time without needing to be replaced to figuring out how cellular telephony would work.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bell Labs created the future. Continue reading

Review: Weird Al: The Book

Weird Al The BookWhen “Weird Al” Yankovic was recording “Belvedere Cruising” in his home back in the 1970s, he probably never expected that he’d have a coffee-table book about him one day.  At least, I would hope not, as that would probably betray a strangely-specific form of narcissism on Al’s part.  If Al DID, though, I’d bet he’d expect one as good as Weird Al: The Book, by the AV Club’s Nathan Rabin.   Continue reading

Review: Howard The Duck

51dHVttIpML._SL500_AA300_Like the movie it captured on the printed page, Howard The Duck (ISBN 0-425-09275-5) has been doomed to ridicule. Unlike the movie, however, far fewer people remember it or know that it ever existed in the first place. This is a true shame. As the popular saying goes, one should not judge a book by its cover, and it can be argued that one should not judge a book by its movie, either.

And why not?
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Review: If You’re Cracked, You’re Happy

cracked-happyFor people of a certain age, it’s almost mind-blowing to think that Cracked is good now. Back when it was a magazine that was a knockoff of MAD, Dan Clowes‘ (a Cracked contributor in the ’80s) description was right: It was “comedy methadone“, for months when MAD wasn’t published. Never that great, but it seemed to fill the need. So, why of all things, would anyone read a book on the history of Cracked? Mark Arnold’s If You’re Cracked, You’re Happy is just that — and it’s surprisingly interesting.

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Review: Codex Seraphinianus

Cover of Abbeville edition

Image via Wikipedia

Codex Seraphinianus is a very, very large book by Luigi Serafini, a neo-Surrealist from Italy. It was written (or, rather, created) in 1981 (or thereabouts), and it’s referenced in Douglas R. Hofstadter‘s Metamagical Themas (a collection of his early 1980s columns for Scientific American).
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