Thursday, January 17, 2019

Book Review: Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime of Writing for The Simpsons, By Mike Reiss with Mathew Klickstein


The Premise:
Writer and former Showrunner, Mike Reiss, recounts his life working on The Simpsons and a bunch of other, non-Simpsons enterprises.

The Good:
The Simpsons! While I admit I haven’t watched the show in years, it was a nice walk down memory lane*. The book is written** in a conversational style that is feels like you’re having a conversation with Mr. Reiss, complete with jokes a-plenty and funny anecdotes. What I most appreciate about the book is his honesty in regards to the realities of the process—the hours are long, the pressure is intense and the food is lousy. And the rewrites! Every single joke is poked, prodded, twisted, turned over and mulled until the perfect joke presents itself. I liked that he presents the process as it is and not as people envision it being—a lone writer retreats to a room and emerges with a pristine, perfect script. Creativity is a team sport and may the best joke win.

The Bad:
The non-Simpsons stuff! I actually didn’t mind the non-Simpsons stuff, it’s just that I’m not as familiar with The Critic or any of his other works. I also felt that, for a memoir, there were some opportunities for introspection that were missed. Why does he think so few women are hired in comedy? Was the Apu controversy an unintended result of hiring a predominantly Harvard Alum staff? Who is the sexiest Simpsons’ character? Is it Hans Moleman?

The Verdict:
Buy it if you have a long flight and want something light to read. Read it if you loved the first ten years of The Simpsons. Burn it if you want to try and be funny, but always take jokes waaaaaay too far. And finally, full disclosure, “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”



*Side note: I own “The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family” which highlights the best moments and quotes from the first 10 years of episodes. I think I’ve read that cover-to-cover at least seven times.

**Or co-written? Or ghost-written?
 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Label logic

I heard on the radio the other day that GMO companies are trying to block legislation in certain states that would require GMO foods to be labeled as such. Why? If you believe in your product, shouldn't you WANT to have your label on foods? Would coffee companies ask to hide the word "caffeine" from their labels? Of course not. They wouldn't be true to themselves. Did Frankenstein hide from those villagers? No, he became a movie star. So to all the GMOs out there, I say, be true to you. Embrace who you are. You don't have to pretend to be something you're not. We'll still love you, glow-in-the-dark peas and all.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review: The Professor in the Cage, by Jonathan Gottschall


The Premise:

An adjunct English professor takes up Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), AJ Jacobs-style*, in an attempt to discover “why men fight and why we like to watch.”



The Good:

Prof. Gottschall has a good sense of the dramatic—teasing his fight at the beginning—and maintains good pacing throughout. His straightforward style makes the book easily accessible and overall the book is a quick read. He has clearly done his research (much of it firsthand-to-hand; couldn’t resist) and this book is a treasure trove of fight-related factoids. I particularly liked the history of dueling and the exploration of the Martial Arts (I was once a devout practitioner).



The Bad:

When Prof. Gottschall focuses on fighting, he is well matched and delivers targeted facts, insights and knowledge. When he strays into discussions on masculinity, gender and society, he seems to be punching a bit above his weight. It’s not that he is necessarily wrong or right on any one thing, but there are times when it feels like he is trying to make the facts fit the fight.



The Verdict:

Read it. If you are a fan of boxing, fighting, Martial Arts, MMA or ninjas, it’s well worth a read. If you aren’t, but want a voyeur’s view into the motivations behind the maulers and brawlers, you’ll also want to check it out. 


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Adventures in Book Sale-ing: A Series of Unfortunate Titles

I have a confession to make: I love old pulpy mysteries. The hard-boiled detectives. The overuse of the adjective "hard-boiled". The hyperbolic titles, such as "A Fistful of Death" or "Pay-off in Blood" (actually a pretty good one, by Brett Halliday). But, like a desperate punch thrown by a self-confessed murderer/ess, sometimes the titles just don't land. Also, I didn't buy any of these.









Exhibit A: Don't Die Under the Apple Tree
Accused of: Being preposterous--it's okay to die, just not THERE--and overly confident--First in a new series!
Verdict: Guilty on all counts.







Exhibit B: Dumb Witness
Accused of: Being overly judgmental and confusing--dumb as in stupid or dumb as in unable to speak or both?
Verdict: Guilty of an unnecessary pejorative









Exhibit C: 10 Little ... did I read that correctly???
Accused of: Racism.
Verdict: Guilty in the UK. Not Guilty in the USA.
Evidence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_Then_There_Were_None











Tuesday, April 28, 2015