I haven’t written one of these in a while, but now that summer has nearly wrapped up, it felt like as good a time as any to cover the music, TV, movies, games and books that have captured my attention when I’m not fully immersed in TikTok or my job search.
- We Want Everything, by Nanni Balestrini — The easiest way to market a book to me is to have even the most tenuous connection to Rachel Kushner. She mentioned this book in her essay collection The Hard Crowd and I’m not surprised that I found it an engrossing account of how industrialization affected Italy in the ’60s. As we as a society come to grips with the impact AI may have on our lives and our livelihoods, this was a bracing read about workers trying to maintain some control over how they work and how that translates to their ability to live.
- Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs, by Greil Marcus — Sometimes I really miss the late glory days of music criticism as seen in alt weeklies. That kind of writing seems even more gnomic now than it did then. The references are often even more obscure now, but in the hands of a master of the form, all the more wonderful. I don’t know if I’ve really gotten to know Dylan better as I work through this book, but the kaleidoscopic portrayal matches the several Dylans he’s been throughout his long career. Didn’t hurt that Rachel Kushner had a blurb on the inner jacket.
- Boardwalk of Dreams, by Bryant Simon — This is so good I wrote the author an email. I’ve longed for a great piece of urban political economy about the arc of Atlantic City, and this is it. Better still, Simon does a fantastic job of outlining how the dynamics that shaped Atlantic City are pertinent for any city that’s been transformed from an industrial center into a tourist playground. The common thread of how public spaces are created and for whom illustrates not only how the Boardwalk scenes can be connected to the casinos, but by the transitive property, how vibrant downtowns connect to suburban malls. If you’ve spent any meaningful amount of time in Atlantic City as my family has visiting friends on the sound end of town, this will help you understand what really happened there and why. He also just shared a Jason Isbell interview conducted by Capital Moves author Jefferson Cowie and I’m just smitten.
- Reddit. I’m the last person on Earth to get lost here. I finally figured out how to make it work for me now that I’m not spending time refreshing Twitter. I get far more enjoyment out of it than I ever did most social media. What if forums were the answer the entire time?
- Barbie — Felt like we had to see it in the theater. Helen wore a pink dress and I wore the “sunny side up” Pavement t‑shirt. I loved so much about it, but felt like for all the talk about dismantling the patriarchy, we spent a disproportionate amount of time rehabilitating the men. It was a fun movie, but I think I wanted more Ghost World than it could offer.
- The Bear — Is this the only prestige TV I like? Maybe! “Fishes” and “Forks” were standout episodes, but the whole show evolved this season into something more than another frenetic, troubling restaurant dramedy. Also, Oliver Platt rules.
- What We Do in the Shadows — I didn’t love S4, with baby Colin Robinson dancing around, but the show seriously bounced back in S5 and completely pulled me back in just when I thought I might let go. “The Campaign” is to Colin Robinson what “Forks” was for Richie.
- Cutter’s Way – 20 years ago I was a video store clerk responsible for maintaining the American actors portion of the store. I can’t tell you how the VHS box for Cutter’s Way taunted me all these years, alongside Hackman’s Night Moves and Keach’s Fat City. I dusted all of them, but never watched them. Now all three are streaming on Criterion Channel together and after watching Cutter’s Way, it’s time I address this oversight. If I learned anything from my time behind the counter at TLA Video, it was that some movies are, well, just a vibe, and this is no exception. The disillusionment, much like in We Want Everything, just resonates so powerfully in the central conflict and the characters are well-developed.
- Yo La Tengo — This Stupid World. There’s literally nothing to say about this band that hasn’t already been said. They’re one of a handful of bands that consistently produces music that I know I’ll enjoy before I’ve listened and they’ve been doing it for decades. This album is no exception, but you already knew that.
- Mixcloud. It’s the best music discovery app for me, hands down.
- This Andy Beta mix that was just shared via his Substack this morning.
- Indiecast. This is the closest I get to music criticism drama nearly 13 years since last writing about music for money. It’s as close as I want to get, I think. Steve and Ian are the Siskel and Ebert of 40-something critics and at a time when so much music criticism has really focused on fan service, they offer up indifference as a refreshing counterpoint to all that.
- Jokermen & Never Ending Stories. More Hyden! I’ve loved Jokermen, but NES may be my new favorite. The interplay between the guys is just fantastic and heightens my appreciation for Bob and all the silly things he’s done throughout the years.
- WRTI. What a gem this radio station is. It was there the entire time. I should’ve been listening since before I got to college, but glad I started now.
- WFMU. I’ve long aspired to support the station and I’m glad I finally did. Jesse Jarnow’s The Frow Show was a gateway to so much great music and the broader network does not disappoint in that regard either.
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. I think I’ve spent the last two years playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. It’s equal parts embarrassing and enthralling. I have literally no friends playing this game, but I fell in love with all the Viking backstory thanks to living in Scandinavia 30 years ago. The story was really satisfying, so much so that I actually completed the game and can’t stop wandering around the countryside. I can’t wait for Mirage to hit.
- Starfield. I haven’t started playing yet, but I’m hoping this game cures me of my Assassin’s Creed Valhalla habit!