My Summer Media Diet

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!

Can We Talk About Forks?

As a 45-year-old sud­den­ly adrift on the job mar­ket, the “Forks” episode of The Bear hit dif­fer­ent. Sure, “Fish­es” was an absolute tour-de-force, cap­i­tal “P” per­for­mance, and “Hon­ey­dew” was a pow­er­ful med­i­ta­tion on growth, but “Forks” spoke to me so direct­ly and hope­ful­ly. Watch­ing Richie trans­form from a lov­able, but deeply flawed dirt­bag liv­ing in an eter­nal present into per­haps the most self-actu­al­ized char­ac­ter on the show was com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed and absolute­ly wel­come. The moment Syd says “Dri­ve,” he’s a man pos­sessed and ful­ly in his ele­ment, con­fi­dent and self-assured, will­ing the team forward.

What I think I espe­cial­ly love about this on a per­son­al lev­el is how Richie and oth­ers are giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ties to grow into them­selves. Carmy sees their poten­tial and puts them in spots to real­ize it. If you’ve ever been stuck or lost in your career, it res­onates deeply, espe­cial­ly when you know what you’re capa­ble of doing, but won­der if you’ll ever get the chance. That’s why Richie’s sto­ry has meant so much to me. The pur­pose he seeks is the anti­dote to “qui­et quit­ting,” or if you’ve tak­en an entry lev­el soci­ol­o­gy class, alien­at­ed labor.

Is there a show I’m more con­cerned about falling apart as col­lat­er­al dam­age of the writ­ers’ strike? No, not like­ly. Maybe it’s just me adopt­ing the Indiecast mind­set, but I lost a taste for most pres­tige TV when Mad Men end­ed. Most of it just feels too self-impor­tant to be gen­uine­ly engag­ing. Like, I know I’m sup­posed to like it, but what even is pres­tige TV in 2023? Is Myth­ic Quest pres­tige TV? I liked that. Are FX shows still pres­tige TV? Is pres­tige just swear­ing and sex on basic cable? Or is it just TV from pre­mi­um services?

The Bear was engi­neered in a lab for young Gen X. “Strange Cur­ren­cies” was my nation­al anthem in 1995. Mon­ster, as I’ve writ­ten else­where, is a cul­tur­al touch­stone with­out equal from my teenage years. The yearn­ing expressed in that song con­nects so per­fect­ly with the mood of sea­son two. But nowhere is it more real­ized than in Richie’s tra­jec­to­ry from “Forks” for­ward, cul­mi­nat­ing in his Jesus-take-the-wheel moment in episode ten and his lac­er­at­ing tough love for Carmy, trapped help­less­ly in the walk-in.

Some­thing I thought about, espe­cial­ly dur­ing “Fish­es,” was Bunuel’s Dis­creet Charm of the Bour­geoisie, where the din­ers await a meal that’s nev­er served. In that sense there’s a real poet­ry to The Bear end­ing before open­ing night and I can be hap­py if it does. Mean­while I will be absolute­ly floor­ing it down back alleys to “Love Sto­ry (Tay­lor’s Ver­sion)” from here on out.

True Detective

I loved True Detec­tive. I’m still read­ing arti­cles about how the show will end and all the spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing it. Heck, they could inter­view any­one who was on set, even if it was just for a day, and I’d prob­a­bly read that.

Here’s the Vul­ture’s inter­view with the pro­duc­tion design­er talk­ing about the effort that went into build­ing Car­cosa. It’s amazing.

My Favorite New Show: Brew Masters

Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel real­ly knows their demo­graph­ic. “Dead­liest Catch” may have run aground, but leave it to those genius­es to hit upon a sub­ject near­er and dear­er to me: craft beer. The kick­er? Throw Dog­fish Head beer guru Sam Cala­gione into the mix and you’re bound to attract an audi­ence of lit­er­al­ly dozens of beer geeks from around the U.S. A hit!

My main ques­tion is why did­n’t I know about “Brew Mas­ters” before catch­ing a com­mer­cial dur­ing a Tot­ten­ham-Arse­nal match on ESPN2? I’m not even that much of a soc­cer fan. And I fol­low @dogfishbeer on Twit­ter! Serendipity!

Not sure that I’ll be able to watch when it airs as it shares a time slot with a lit­tle show called “Board­walk Empire,” but you bet­ter believe I’ll be DVR-ing it like a boss to watch Mon­day night while Helen checks out “Gos­sip Girl.”

UPDATE: I may have spo­ken to soon. Read this fun­ny post over at A Good Beer Blog for the details. “Cake Boss” of beer sounds apt. Could be a turkey, but I still have love for local craft brew­ers. Go Sam!