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Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Perfectly Safe Book Review That's Still Guaranteed To Manage To Offend Absolutely Everyone

Social networking, like cancer is here to stay and probably won't ever leave and will take our lives away from us in varying degrees. While I'm proud of my abstention of Facebook - big deal -I'm still linked to Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, You Tube, Instagram and probably a few more digital dungeons that have slipped my mind at the present time. One of the more unusual phenomena in the social networking stratosphere is the review site, i.e. Yelp for vendors - Yelp is The Devil, by the way; Goodreads and Shelfari for books, Rotten Tomatoes and iMDB for movies to name just a few.

Writing reviews for Yelp started out as a bit of fun in the beginning but all good things must come to an end, eventually. Even with over 200 followers I still had people screaming at me for reviews that were less than completely worshipful of their favorite burger stand: "ARE YOU TOTALLY RETARDED????? HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE IN 'N OUT??????? DUDE!!!! I CALL FOUL!!!"

Somehow it wasn't enough for them to love an overrated dump like In 'N Out (My Anus), I had to join the choir of colon abusers singing their praises but because I didn't I had to endure hateful comments and PMs (Personal Messages).

Things finally got out of hand when my wife and I got out of our car in Koreatown on a Saturday morning at 9 am, and a disgruntled Yelper down the block honked his car horn several times and gave me the finger. Just to make sure I got the message he got out of the car and screamed "FUCK YOU" at me several times. When he noticed my wife and I laughing at him for behaving like a retarded dragon biter he nervously ran back to his car and quickly sped off.

After leaving stupid Yelp and its idiotic drama I joined Goodreads, way better but things are starting to get psycho in Book Review Land, too. Although I have loads of followers and friends (you're all awesome) there are a few wing nuts that scream at my reviews for "revealing spoilers". A spoiler, for those who aren't familiar with the word, is a surprising twist in the story that usually alters the climax or denouement of the novel.

The spoilers that I have been accused of revealing were not major plot points but nevertheless inspired more screaming comments on the order of "DUDE!!! YOU JUST RUINED THE BOOK FOR ME!!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING????"
Another angry comment came from a midget from Bulgaria who said, "OBVIOUSLY YOU'RE A TROLL (not with over 225 followers I'm not) AND I WILL HAVE YOU KICKED OFF GOODREADS FOR GOOD!!!!"

By the way, most of these hysterical protests seem to come from the male camp. Women seem to spend more time actually reading books instead of whining about book reviews. Apparently life to these whistle blowers seems unbearable in the knowledge that someone somewhere doesn't like something they've enjoyed for years, and until they scream their insane heads off at you for not liking their favorite book, movie or record the world will never spin properly on its axis again.

Let's talk about this spoiler business, and I'm going to be harsh about it. If a film or a book is over 30 years old it's perfectly okay to mention the ending or any other part of it because everybody on the planet has probably already read or seen it, okay?

If you don't believe me, read numerous interviews with Alfred Hitchcock discussing the ending to Psycho or Orson Welles discussing "Rosebud" in Citizen Kane or Robert Aldrich explaining the reason he changed the ending to Kiss Me Deadly. Would these same Goodreads ass clowns run over to these legendary directors and scream "DUDE!!!! SPOILERS!!!" to their faces? I think not.

So, with that in mind I present to you a book review tailor made to satisfy even the most petulant of spoiler queens. The book I'll review today may or may not be a collection of short stories called "Welcome To The Monkey House" authored by (spoiler alert) Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

This collection of stories is bound with a front and back cover made of card stock with an attractive illustration on the front. In between are many pages with stories published in them. I hope I haven't given anything away so far!

This book begins with a (spoiler alert) preface by the author which lasts three pages. It's a fairly mild preface but actually pretty dull. There, I said it. Good thing it was so short. Most of the stories were written in the Fifties and early Sixties and perfectly capture the blandness of the American middle class during the Cold War era.

Like all short story collections the quality of the tales vary wildly from largely satisfying to totally pointless, (SPOILER ALRT, DUDE!!!!) Long Walk To Forever had a lame ending, likewise More Stately Mansions. Lame endings.

I also found Vonnegut's science fiction writings to be dry and dull. He does shine, however, when he approaches the eccentric middle class in stories like The Foster Portfolio about a man with a big secret (DUDE!!!BRO!!!), Next Door and Go Back To Your Precious Wife And Son.

I also found Vonnegut's compassion and insight towards people outside of his ethnicity poignant, as in his heart breaking tale of a black German orphan in DP or his tale of a Holocaust survival couple in Adam.

But the crown jewel in this collection is an extremely funny story called The Hyannis Port Story which lampoons the crass commercialization of the Camelot-era Kennedy presidency, published just months before the President's untimely death in 1963. DUDE!!! SPOILERS!!!!

Yes, there will be thousands who won't agree with my review. Start lighting your torches and sharpen your pitchforks. You can burn me down in Koreatown.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Smell Check 2014

Welcome to the 2014 edition of Smell Check, my annual overview of mens' cologne faves and farces, Normally I publish my annoying opinions around the Christmas shopping season but this year I decided to do it around Valentine's Day, where it would do the most good. Many of the scents listed in this blog are guaranteed to drive your girlfriend, boyfriend, or pet camel wild with ecstasy. This I promise!

Mugler A*Men Pure Malt (Thierry Mugler): Boy, do the brothers love this one, and if you don't believe me check out the countless reviews on You Tube of this impetuous cologne. With a bizarre black rubber casing and the iconic Mugler Angel symbol standing out there's no mistaking this cologne with any other.

The story as it's been told is that this is the only cologne that's aged in toasted oak barrels over a period of six weeks like aged whiskey. Because the process is so unique it's currently available as a limited edition scent, and from what I understand it made two other limited appearances in the past ten years. I got the last bottle at Nordstrom's Hollywood so this is a hot ticket item.

What does it smell like? Well, it's a lot like Angel for Men mixed with some great expensive Scotch. Works for me!

Polo Red (Ralph Lauren): Not bad, a little bit better than his other efforts. This one boasts the ingredients of redwood, red saffron (!) and grapefruit. A little spicier than what you'd normally expect from Lauren so it gets a C.

Uomo (Zegna): I don't know if this will make you "the master of all your adventures" (some advertising slogan!) but it has a burnt woodsy smell to it, like you've been sitting around a campfire whittling wood or sitting by the fireplace wishing there was a girl sitting next to you. If you love the smell of lumber yards you'll pine for this one, birch! (ouch)

L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme Sport (Issey Miyake): I'm not reviewing the cologne but the body wash, yup, I'm cheating, but this is a good one and well worth your dough. It's got a bright, bubblegum candy scent that'll hide more BO than Fort Knox. The "notes" aka cologne ingredients include Florida Grapefruit, Bergamot, Vetiver from Haiti (what's that?), Indonesian Nutmeg, Virginan Cedarwood, and Ambergris, which might be whale vomit. Dig in!

Tom Ford Noir (Tom Ford): If there's a designer more arrogant and egotistical than Tom Ford he hasn't arrived yet. Ford may be the most vile figure in modern fashion today, so it almost hurts me to admit that his newest men's cologne is a clear winner.

With all the notes thrown into this one you just can't miss: Bergamot Oil, Verbena, Violet Flower, Caraway Oil, Baie Rose, Bulgarian Rose, Geranium Oil, Tuscan Iris Resinoid, Styrax Oil, Black Pepper Oil, Nutmeg, Clary Sage, Patchouli Oil, Vetiver (um, yeah, that again but is it from Haiti?), Leather, Benzoin, Vanilla, Opoponax, Amber Civet. Is that all?

Needless to say Mr. Wonderful's image graces all the cologne counters ensuring quick sales of this great scent, looking resplendent in his permanently etched five o'clock shadow, forest-like weave obscuring his receding hairline and permanently taciturn expression on his face. He's saying fuck you if you don't buy this. This time I'm going to have to agree with him!

So, Valentine's Day is comin' playa so get your cologne juice on.


Almost simultaneously two leading menswear designers have issued a line of classic rock collections: John Varvatos interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "closet" and Paul Smith's Autumn Winter 2014 Jim Morrison collection. Both collections are weird and awkward.

Varvatos' Hendrix styles include the iconic military jacket and stumpy boots with loose, delicate shirts. While there's nothing awful about it the full effect looks dated and uncommercial (as in "who's gonna buy this stuff?"). Frankly I saw it all before at Granny Takes A Trip in 1974 and it was done better then.

Paul Smith's take on Jim Morrison is ironic, to say the least, as it was presented in Paris, the city the rock icon died in. I also think Jim Morrison was one of the worst dressed rock stars of his generation, always seen in a shlubby Mexican wedding shirt and not much else. A small percentage of the clothes look like something The Lizard King would wear, tenty caftan tops and leather pants, but then there are incongruous things Morrison never wore (glittery jackets, Arabic scarves, etc.).

While it's a given that rock music and fashion have inspired each other for decades, both tributes almost have that Project Runway "I'm gonna get sent home" vibe about them because neither collection brings anything new or exciting to the table. And that's what's necessary to bring people in to spend their money. Too much rock and not enough frock.