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I’ve fallen into a reading rut and I can’t get up

12 Jul

med_1473419543_imageFor the better part of three months now, I’ve been in a reading rut. HELP!

Here’s what my rut looks like: I get on the train in the morning and, instead of reading, I listen to music—sometimes I willingly listen to “Despacito,” even though I hear it four times a day through ambient street noise. I take the train home after work and, instead of reading, I think important thoughts, like “I hope the good taco place doesn’t close early” and “Better skip the gym just to be safe.” I settle onto my couch in the evening (tacos in tow) and, instead of reading, I watch television—satisfying my inner nihilist by “ironically” expending more emotional energy on reality shows than IRL North Korea. I climb into bed at night and, instead of reading, mindlessly scan social media, burrowing down rabbit holes of internet beefs and Instagram braggadocio while sending myself nonsensical Slack messages like “fall fancy Friday” and “animal weekends??”  Continue reading

An ode to the pop-fiction palate cleanser

22 Feb

I decided to try it at an airport, because… I was already drinking a bloody, you know? Anyway I loved it, practically inhaled it, and passed it on to a friend. She was looking for a pick-me-up, had been into the hard stuff lately. Pretty soon I found another friend who liked it, and a week later, a third confessed: She’d needed it, needed the break from reality.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for a reprieve from life’s daily frustrations, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies is an almost guaranteed conduit to temporary nirvana.  Continue reading

I’m going to read a biography of each president to feel better, or much much worse

15 Nov

washington_a_life_book_coverSometime after seeing Hamilton last summer—cough, humblebrag, cough—I came up with an ambitious reading idea, so ambitious that I shelved it for some future month/year, in which I might theoretically have a surplus of time and a deficit of new reality shows to watch. (Other such ideas postponed indefinitely: reading all of the books from a “Best 100 Books of All Time” list; reading every No. 1 New York Times bestseller for a year; actually finishing Infinite Jest.)

Hamilton is fantastic, and I’ll spare you the unnecessary piling on of compliments here. But outside of its amazingness, the show also prompted me (and many others) to pick up the biography on which it’s based, a tome by Ron Chernow that inspired Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda when he read it on vacation. Now, in the interest of full transparency: I haven’t actually started that biography yet, but it does occupy a prime spot in my apartment’s hierarchy of book piles—it could very well get read this decade. More important though, Chernow got me thinking: What if I tried to read one biography of each president, in order, starting with George Washington?  Continue reading

The Martian Trailer is Here and Yesyesyesyes

8 Jun

Remember a few months ago when I told you Andy Weir’s stranded-in-space sci-fi novel The Martian is amazing and deserves all the great attention it’s getting as well as its Ridley-Scott-directed, Matt-Damon-starring movie adaptation? Well the trailer came out today and it looks GOOD.

If you haven’t read this book yet, jump on it.

Some Belated Thinky Thoughts on Justin Bieber

27 Jan

1390500405_justin-bieber-mugshot-467Being a card-carrying* member of the lame-stream media, I am often forced to accept the ease with which the average consumer can — and loves to — pillory the current state of news. In 2014, finding an example of lazy, pandering or simply nonexistent journalism is as easy as turning on the television, or daring to type the word “cat” into a Google image search. And while there’s still a great deal of good work out there — for those so inclined to spend more time looking for it than bemoaning its alleged absence — it’s difficult to ignore that the ever-blurring line between information and entertainment has resulted in an America where MSNBC interrupts a congresswoman to report on breaking Bieber news.

*Still waiting for card.

As an emblem of The Problem With Media, Justin Bieber is tailor-made. He’s young, attractive and famous to a degree that both fascinates and disgusts us, revealing as it does some fundamental human tendency toward idolatry. As of late, Bieber has also proven himself a perfect storm of wealth and immaturity, the kind of person who gets his mansion raided by police because he egged his neighbor’s mansion. Without getting all intense about the state of journalism, it’s fair to say that Bieber is a car crash and America loves rubbernecking.

Continue reading

Some Thinky Thoughts On Duck Dynasty

19 Dec

Duck Dynasty Season 3[Editor’s note: Not a book post]

I’ve been a Duck Dynasty fan since the first season, when I would sing the show’s praises to anyone within earshot and foist recorded episodes onto unsuspecting visitors. And while my friends and family feigned a begrudging tolerance for the show — which is too improvised to be scripted and too staged to be reality — I could tell that they weren’t sold, not like I was. “It’s going to be big,” I’d mutter to myself as they shrugged off my over-eager descriptions of Si’s wisdom, or Duck Commander workroom tomfoolery. “Just you wait.”

And I was right. Having recently finished its fourth season, Duck Dynasty is huge. Eleven million viewers huge. Extremely comprehensive Walmart partnership huge. For the same intangible reasons that reality-show predecessors like Jersey Shore and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo captured a certain [ratings-boosting] je ne sais quoi, DD has easily become one of the most popular shows in the country. Which makes it super awkward for A&E that cast member/patriarch Phil Robertson – a crucial DD dispenser of old-timer Louisiana wisdom – made a series of offensive comments in an interview with GQ this week. The crucial excerpts are as such:

“‘Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.’ [Paraphrasing Corinthians] ‘Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.’”

… “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

… ”We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

Understandably, many people were offended. Many. A&E on Wednesday suspended Phil from the show “indefinitely,” which is a natural knee-jerk reaction, but also kind of like suspending Santa from the North Pole. Whether or not Phil commands the majority of screen time on DD, he is an important element of the family dynamic that makes the show so popular (I don’t buy into arguments that the aforementioned je ne sais quoi is the Robertsons’ read-between-the-lines Christian evangelism). Suspending Phil is like Jersey Shore suspending Snooki, or Honey Boo Boo exiling Mama June. However valid the reasoning, it don’t make no sense. Continue reading

Let’s all just chill out about Princesses: Long Island

14 Jun

"The Princesses Of Long Island", Caroline Manzo & Teresa Giudice Visit "Extra"(Editor’s Note: Not a post about books.)

If you’re looking for a tirade about the deterioration of culture—particularly television—then you’re definitely in the wrong place. While I do spend most of my days working with high-caliber journalism, and many of my nights reading, I also have a long list of guilty pleasures, including detritus like American Idol, Jersey Shore and nearly every iteration of Real Housewives. In the past, I’ve written impassioned defenses of Honey Boo Boo and stupid authors, and I will espouse the altruism of reality shows to anyone within earshot (“But they helped her get rid of all the dead cats!”)

So obvi I find myself eye-rollingly exhausted by backlash from Bravo’s latest glorifixplotation: Princesses: Long Island. The show, which fits nicely between the leather-skinned ladies of Real Housewives and the petulant adolescents of Teen Mom, centers on a group of Long Island 20-somethings who still live at home with their parents because, as cast member Chanel puts it, that’s “kind of a Jewish thing” and “kind of a Long Island thing.”

Continue reading