I didn’t buy this Weezer album when it came out because I had heard really bad things about it (like the “guests”), but when I saw it cheap I decided to check it out. This has to be the most polarizing Weezer album of them all. I listened to it twice yesterday. The first time I thought I had been too harsh on it. The second time I thought it was godawful. It’s amazing what a couple of hours can do.
It opens with a wonderful bit of poppy wordplay ala Cheap Trick: “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To.” It’s catchy as anything and is a wonderful start to the album, even if it is probably their poppiest song ever. From there though, the album really degenerates. And mostly it’s because it’s so dumb. I mean the album title should tell you what you’re in for, but who would have expected the moronic sub-pop-metal of “The Girl Got Hot” or even the reprehensible lyrics of “I’m Your Daddy” “You are my baby tonight And I’m your daddy.” It’s just creepy. Or gah, a song about the mall? “In the Mall.” It’s not even worth mocking. And really, try to picture Rivers Cuomo in a mall. Any mall.
But nothing could prepare anyone for “Can’t Stop Partying.” Unlike Andrew WK’s ouvre, which is so sincere about partying that you can’t take it seriously, this song really seems to be about the guys partying. It’s laughable. The anemic rap but Li’l Wayne certainly doesn’t help.
Even the collaboration with Indian musicians on “Love is the Answer” (yes, seriously) doesn’t really work. It feels like they wrote the song and then said, “Hey let’s throw some sitar on it.” It’s not enough to be exciting but too much to ignore.
This is not to say that these songs aren’t catchy. I mean, geez, I still have “Can’t Stop Partying” in my head while I’m listening to something else. Rivers knows how to write a pop trifle. And the more he writes songs like this, it makes me thing that Pinkerton was the fluke. Which is fine. The music world needs poppy songs, right?
[READ: early August 2011] various nonfictions
I thought about doing individual posts for all of Arthur Bradford’s non-fiction that’s available on his website (that’s right, yet another author that I have read short uncollected pieces by without having read any of his bigger works–I’m looking at you Wells Tower). Bradford has links to all of his nonfiction ( I assume) on his website. There are 12 links in total. One is to his blog (which I’m not reviewing). The rest are for articles covering a pretty broad array of topics from a pretty broad variety of sources.
“The Rest of His Days” Austin Chronicle, November 27, 1997
This is a moving piece about Lars Eighner who wrote the 1993 memoir Travels With Lizbeth. I’d never heard of it. Evidently Eighner was homeless, living with his dog Lizbeth, and he wrote a memoir about the experience. He made a bunch of money and garnered lots of praise. But here it was 4 years later and Eighner had blown through his money and was virtually homeless again. Bradford happened to know him, so he wrote this piece about him. It is very sad and kind of unbelievable. I even wondered if Lars was still alive after reading this. (He is, his site is still up and running).
“My First Book Tour” The Portland Mercury, October 18, 2001
I was sort of comparing this to Franzen’s piece about going on Oprah or DFW’s talks about the rigors of touring. And while this one page article doesn’t compare to those two in any way, it is an interesting look at travelling for a somewhat unnecessary thing right after September 11, 2001. As the subtitle states: “Or, ‘I’m not a hijacker’.”
Disabling OpinionsVice, December 2002.
Bradford created How’s Your News with the intent of getting disabled folks into the mainstream. This article is sort of the raison d’être for him about his work with disabled people. Bradford is very conscious of the disabled being exploited, and yet at the same time he thinks it’s important to get them out there and show the world that they are funny, foolish and well, normal. It’s a very good piece.
“Calling All Nutjobs”-Men’s Journal, November 2002
I was afraid tha this piece was going to be another crazy article in which a writer goes to enter a crazy competition for a crazy story. And this race, The Tough Guy race seemed like just the sort of crazy thing an author would do for a story. Bradford introduces the race to us, telling all of the crazy things that men (and some women) do to get into this gruelling preposterous race (which reminds me somewhat of The Barkley Marathon race that was mentioned The Believer). By the time Bradford actually gets to the part where, indeed, he’s going to do it too, I was rally psyched to read what it was like. This sounds like a crazy event; one I will never do.
“Island Life”-Another Magazine, Spring Summer 2005.
Bradford gets published in the strangest magazines. Who has even heard of this one (which is still in existence apparently). So this is another one of Bradford’s sincere articles (after the nonsense of the Tough Guy race). He goes to an island correctional facility The Penikese Isalnd School near Woods Hole, Massachusetts, which is “a therapeutic boarding school for struggling boys.” Basically it is a place that they send kids who have been to prison and are ready for strike three. The island is a throwback to olden days–no TVs, a strict work schedule and a lot of schooling. Bradford is very supportive of the school (and now so am I). It sounds like a very good school and I’m glad Bradford introduced me to it.
“Skiing the Sahara”-Men’s Journal, January 2006
In the first of several skiing articles, Bradford (proving himself to be a major daredevil) travels to Africa to ski (!). It’s a funny, daring adventure–especially when they decide to try skiing in the Sahara Desert (really). I don’t care bout skiing but I found this amazing.
“Austin City Limits: My Time with the Texas Hippie Love Cult”-Nerve.com, Mar 20 2007
This is a bizarre story about a cult in Texas. Bradford meets a member of the cult (who is just kind of hanging round) and she brings him to their hangout. The details of the cult are kind of bizarre (as you expect from a cult). And there is indeed much free love to be had. Now, it turns out that this article is about The Zendik Tribe. A couple of years ago I was in Manhattan and somebody from the Zendik tribe sold me one of their bumper stickers (yes, I paid, I figured it was the easiest way to get away from her–plus I liked the idea on the sticker). If only I had known I could have been sucked into the Texas Hippie Love Cult!
“In the Notch”, ReadyMade, 2007
This one page article is about Bradford’ purchase of an old house in Vermont. He spends much of the article talking about his neighbor, an old man who has lived there, totally off the grid, for years. Man, Bradford is a fascinating guy. And just what is ReadyMade? (A vintage style DIY magazine, apparently).
“Maine, 1977”-Powder Magazine, Feb 2010
As we learned, Bradford is a Skiier. And here’s a couple of articles in Powder magazine. Yawn. Except not. This first one is a wonderfully weird article about his family in Maine in the 70s. I already know a bit about Bradford’s upbringing from the Five Dials article that sent me looking for more by him. So, the fact that this article opens with a photo of his mom and her friend on skis totally naked (and that he proceeds to write about the picture) is pretty wild. It’s a really interesting look back at hippies, and off the grid hippies at that (naked skiing, really? Brrr.)
“Ski Bum Diaries”-Powder Magazine, November 2010
This very short piece (with lots of pictures) is Bradford’s way of saying that East Coast skiing kicks the West Coast’s ass. He plans to ski many East Coast mountains in a short period of time, amassing several thousand feet of runs in just a few days. If I liked skiing, this might mean more to me.
“Summer Shared”-New York Times, June 4, 2010
I’m saving this for last because, this teeny section of the Times concerns books that the authors found in guest rooms on vacations…something I have never done. What I love about it is that many authors who I really like have contributed something. And since each write-up is about a paragraph long, I’ll mention them all:
Elizabeth Gilbert read “Unreliable Memoirs” — the autobiography of the Australian critic, poet and novelist Clive James (and then she everything else by him during the year 2008).
Maile Meloy read “The Italians,” by Luigi Barzini (and has a fascinating story to accompany it).
David Rakoff read “Rashomon and Other Stories” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (and has a hilarious story to accompany it)
Miraim Towes read (but never finished because it was too scary) “The Magus,” by John Fowles. This brief paragraph makes me want to read the book.
Wells Tower (see! he’s back) read “The Bridges of Madison County,” by Robert James Waller. I will quote nearly his whole thing because it is too funny: “Strenuously unrecommended as a novel, but if you strike every third verb and noun it converts into a superb volume of Mad Libs with which to pass idle hours by the sea.”
Dave Eggers read “Kramer vs. Kramer,” by Avery Corman. It was a nice break from writing What is the What about the war in Sudan.
Cathleen Schine (the only author I’ve not read) read “The Betrothed,” by Alessandro Manzoni. She says it’s a classic textbook that all Italian kids read and hate, but because it wasnt assigned to her she found it very enjoyable.
Finally Arthur Bradford read Charles Portis’ “Dog of the South” and found it so funny that he stole the copy (he has since left copies in other people’s houses to fix his karma.
So that’s Arthur Bradford’s non-fiction. I rather like his style. He is funny, with enough of an edge and an enjoyment to what he does to keep me interested even if I don’t care about the subject. And yet for all his bravado, he genuinely cares about the people that he writes about.
One of these days I’ll read Dogwalker, and then I’ll have an other author whose entire corpus I have read. Neat!