Books of 2015, #2: Silver Screen Fiend, by Patton Oswalt

I picked this up because it was indirectly referenced in a blog post of Chet’s.

I think the first time I ever saw Patton Oswalt was in a review of Young Adult on Roger Ebert’s show. Prior to that my only conscious knowledge of him was through Ratatouille. Until I read this, I still only really knew him from that and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I find his subject—the period of years where he was obsessed with watching movies—interesting in large part because it’s simultaneously so antithetical and yet still related to my own relationship with movies.

I regard film as a medium for entertainment, full stop. If a film can transcend being entertainment and show me something profound about a group of characters, I’m all for that—as a recent example, I would, in fact, hold up American Hustle as a film that proves that that is possible.

Call it the celluliod version of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship. I care not a whit for film for film’s sake. I would, honestly, rather read Roger Ebert writing about most films—especially “serious” films—than watch them.

So had I known him at this time in his life, I suspect I would be one of the people he looked at with blank incomprehension, unable to understand how they couldn’t recognize the importance of his obsession.


I am also the guy who picks all those same facts about the movies, the stars, the deals that went down, the films that were never made. All the things he felt he was boring people with at this time in his life, those I would have found interesting. The films, though? Not so much.

Anyway, having devoted all this space to me, let me now say that the book is entertaining, and yet transcends entertainment, in the way that most people’s attempts to understand themselves are able to do. It’s funny, but with only a couple of moments that made me laugh out loud—but those were really good: Louis C.K.’s comments on how to approach visiting Amsterdam, and his brother’s description of a scene in The Phantom Menace that continues to make me laugh just thinking about it.

Books of 2015, #1: Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, by Jon Ronson

Unlike the other books of Jon Ronson’s I’ve read, this is a book of discrete essays, without a specific central theme. However, if I were to try to sum it up, I would try something like, “Oh, what inventive ways we humans have invented to interact with the universe, often thereby doing badly by one another.”

Perhaps not surprising from a guy who wrote a book titled The Psychopath Test.

His voice is engaging, if perhaps a little more neurotic than I can entirely empathize with, but that’s OK: I remember seeing him on The Daily Show a few years back, and can easily visualize his weedy, twitchy look.

Really, the through-line on all these essays zigs and zags a bit. I mean, from Juggallos, to a the scandal that inspired Slumdog Millionaire, to a fairly brutal illustration of income inequality, to the first disappearance from a Disney cruise ship.

I think the only one I truly enjoyed—that being a very distinct thing from my reaction to most, which was a sort of horrified-by-the-traffic-accident fascination—was the one on Stanley Kubrick’s boxes and boxes and boxes of research material.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all worth reading, but it’s not necessarily going to make you happy.

I just broke up with my comic shop…

I feel horribile about it—it’s a classic “death of small businesses” story—but I’ve finally gotten fed up with dealing with actual physical comic books. I’ve been flirting with the idea of going digital for a while, but I figured that this was the time to cut the cord.

I will admit that there’s a preparing-to-be-vindicated element to it—the biggest comics publishers (DC and Marvel) do not, at present, allow you to download copies of issues you “buy” for offline storage, though some smaller ones (Image), do.

Maybe I’m fooling myself in thinking that eventually this practice will be more broadly applicable—the electronic publishing industry seems to be moving in that direction (albeit very slowly), and the DRM wars were won on the music front years ago.

Or maybe ten years from now I’ll be absolutely screwed: although Comixology was purchased by Amazon earlier this year, and will almost certainly be around, Amazon’s record with regard to advocating for relaxed DRM on books is pretty non-existent, because that DRM also effectively drives people to Amazon’s hardware platform, which encourages follow-on sales.

This is different from the situation when Amazon entered the digital music industry—they had no hardware platform, so pushing DRM’d content gained them nothing.

Coming Round Again

Hey, welcome to 2015!

Isn’t it wonderful how, even with just two glasses of good Champagne and getting to bed at 10:30, you can still wake up with a headache?

No, it’s not wonderful, but whatever—I assume it’s my body just tapping into some underlying gestalt.

I’ve decided that 2015 will be the Year of Not Holding Onto Shit.

This is a widely-applicable principle. Books overflowing your bookcases? Don’t hold onto that shit. People at your job annoying you? Don’t hold onto that shit. Overeating out of habit? Don’t hold onto that shit.

I mean, I could talk about it in terms of aparigraha, sure, but sometimes more pungent language reminds you that as beautiful as a worthy as a concept might be of deliberate contemplation and careful consideration, without implementation, it’s not going to do you any good.

Hell, I even got an early start yesterday, when I went through my clothes, and removed everything I wasn’t going to wear. It was a lot. I had stuff that had been at the bottom of drawers for years. There’s no need to hold onto that shit.

I have not one but two guitar amplifiers that have been in my closet ever since I moved into this office three or four years ago (I’ve been using a Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn III for roughly forever. One of them doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked for at least a decade. Why am I holding onto that shit?

You get the idea. So the question is, what shit don’t you need to hold onto?