Aug 012013
 

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim

Nicholas Mennuti and David Guggenheim’s globe-trotting suspense novel about a government contractor in exile went on sale this week, and if you were one of the book’s early readers, you know why Universal Pictures snapped up the film rights so quickly: Weaponized is a lush, rollicking tale, just as much immersed in the exotic cities of Cambodia as it is in the troubling consequences of government surveillance gone awry. It’s a story that begs to be seen as much as read. But what would the soundtrack for that movie be? Here to offer a playlist is none other than Nicholas Mennuti himself. You can listen to some of these songs through the Spotify player above.

Depeche Mode – “Barrel of A Gun”
Depeche Mode has always been one of my top five bands and their Violator album has exalted status on my list of desert island discs. “Barrel of A Gun” actually comes from their Ultra album—which, in my humble opinion, is their best after Violator, and may also be their darkest album overall (which means it’s dark). “Barrel of A Gun” will put you in the right frame of mind for Weaponized before you even crack the spine.

UNKLE – “Lonely Soul”
One of the greatest songs about isolation ever recorded. The beat is all jangly electro and the vocals by The Verve’s Richard Aschroft are haunting. One refrain sums up Weaponized better than I ever could: “I’m gonna die in a place that don’t know my name.”

Planningtorock – “I’m Your Man”
Planningtorock is actually just Janine Rostron, an experimental British musician who distorts the vocals in her songs to play around with gender identity and to better suit the mood of each individual track. It sounds heavy—it isn’t; you can dance to it. She’s done some softer beats, but “I’m Your Man” is pure paranoia all the way. It’s not easy listening, but neither is Kyle’s journey in Weaponized, and this track helped me set the mood for his inner monologues.

Jerry Goldsmith – “Basic Instinct – Main Title Theme”
After Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith—to me—is the greatest Hollywood composer of all time, and Basic Instinct has one of his signature scores. If Robinson ever had theme music, this would be it: slinky, seductive, and dangerous as hell. Also, bonus points to this score for having the second greatest simulated orchestral orgasm after Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde”.

Chemical Brothers – “Container Park”
Film music has undergone many metamorphoses over the years, but hiring Daft Punk to score Tron:Legacy was a big one. Hollywood has never known what to do with electronic music, even when it embraced the synthesizer in the 80’s, but Daft Punk changed that. Since then, Orbital, Hybrid, M83, and others have made excursions into film scoring—but none with the force of The Chemical Brothers in the score for Joe Wright’s Hanna. Try listening to “Container Park” and not feel the danger.

Muse – “MK Ultra”
I don’t want to call Muse a guilty pleasure, but I kind of have to. It’s the best arena rock of the 2000s. I unabashedly love this song and can’t decide whether it’s because of the song itself or just the title—but either way I listened to it fairly regularly while writing the CIA sections in Weaponized.

David Bowie – “I’m Afraid of Americans”
Earthling was Bowie’s big late-90’s comeback album wherein he fully embraced electro, sort of like Madonna’s William Orbit–stamped “Ray of Light.” No playlist I construct would lack Bowie, but this song’s special even for the master himself and really contributed to the paranoid lost soul quality of Kyle in Weaponized.

John Murphy – “Mercado Nuevo”
In my opinion, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice is the most underrated film of the 2000s, and by extension, so is John Murphy’s propulsive score. Murphy’s done memorable work for Danny Boyle—28 Days Later and Sunshine—but his work for Mann really shines. “Mercado Nuevo” is the perfect music for driving into denied territory, exactly what Kyle and Lara spend a lot of time doing in Weaponized.

Public Image, Ltd – “The Order of Death”
Public Image Ltd was John Lydon’s (Johnny Rotten) first band after the Sex Pistols ended and is considered by many—me included—to be the first and potentially the best “post-rock” band. This particular track may be their crowning achievement and sets the mood for the last few chapters of Weaponized—that’s all I can say.

Tangerine Dream – “Thru Metamorphic Rocks”
I’ve got a serious spot in my heart for 70s and 80s Krautrock, and it doesn’t get much more epic than Tangerine Dream. This track is close to fifteen minutes long—my favorite part comes in at around five minutes in. I listened to it obsessively while writing the first time Kyle and CIA agent Tom Fowler encounter each other in a hotel room. Read the chapter and you’ll see why…

Thievery Corporation – “The Forgotten People”
Choosing a Thievery Corporation track is as much about celebrating how much all their music contributed to Weaponized as it is a public service announcement. No band has gotten me laid more consistently than Thievery Corporation (maybe Massive Attack did, too, I have to think). So listen to this track, which I did, while writing the early Phnom Penh scenes in Weaponized, or just buy the whole album Radio Retaliation and thank me later.

Wang Chung – “City of the Angels”
This is another epic action track, over nine minutes; my favorite part kicks in just over one minute in. This was Lara’s theme music for me, particularly when it came time for her to start shooting people. Also To Live and Die in L.A., directed by William Friedkin, is one of my favorite films ever. Don’t let the 80s prejudice you or the fact it’s by Wang Chung dissuade you—this is film scoring of the highest order.

Jul 312013
 

Josh Getzler

 

Today was the most beautiful day of the summer. It was lucky, then, that I had tickets to see Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five and Guster in Brooklyn. Because you know what? Sometimes it's just too gorgeous to blog about publishing. Back to it next week. Happy Summer! 

 

Photo (4)

 

Best Background Vocals

 Music  Comments Off
Jul 222013
 



Having just seen 20 Feet From Stardom, I began to think about what are the best background vocals I remember. The Pips in Midnight Train to Georgia equal Gladys if not surpass her.

What are some of your favorite background vocals?

Best Album

 Music  Comments Off
Jul 102013
 
EW did a best of everything issue and chose REVOLVER as the best album. Would this be your choice?
Jul 032013
 


charliehuston:

First time through “Fear Fun" my ears skipped right past “Now I’m Learning to Love the War."  It took a few listenings before it hooked me.  Father John Misty is not everyone’s cup of tea.  If the album cover isn’t a dead giveaway, this is some major hippie, funky, folkfest rock.  Shit is lodged in my headphones right now.

Anyway, this song has entered my consciousness as a totally impropable theme song for SKINNER.  You’d need to read the book for that to make sense, but that’s the point here at charliehuston.com.

A blunt weapon of a song, satire again, crushingly dark, with a lovely, and, I’d argue, very funny finish.

Skinner has a theme song, and it’s unlike anything we’ve heard before. Just like Charlie Huston’s new novel is unlike anything we’ve read before…

Jun 262013
 

Josh Getzler

Every year on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, WPLJ radio in New York broadcasts its morning show from Jenkinson’s Pier in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. There are bands playing live, the atmosphere is festive. I used to listen every year I worked in baseball as I drove from my apartment in Manhattan to the ballpark in Staten Island. And every year, the highlight of the broadcast was the same: The traffic guy, Joe Nolan, would get up on stage and tell a long story about his father taking him out to the shore in the summer, and how now, as a father himself, he marveled at his own life. Then he would pause, yell “1, 2, 3, 4!” and bust into a highly emotional, slightly off-key but marvelous Born to Run. I once found myself feeling oddly choked up on the New Jersey Turnpike as I yelled along with Joe Nolan.

I feel like every summer I write a blog post about the day my girls go to camp. It has to do with being a dad of daughters who are still little but grow more worldy and somewhat more inscrutable by the day, even as they are still willing to hug me and still cry when they get on the bus. Only now it’s for seven weeks straight, and that’s a long time.

And every year I talk about what they read, and what they read on, as technology changes and they become more sophisticated and plugged in. Which is why it was fascinating to me that this year they went without e-readers at all, and simply took their books with them the old fashioned way—weighing down their backpacks and crammed among the lip gloss and the illicit granola bars and the sunscreen, in hardcover and paperback.

Now this is not a judgment—I’m not proud that they’re reading print books or disappointed that they aren’t reading on machines (or vice versa, if that’s even logical). Rather, it was interesting, and I was thinking about why. And I came up with a couple of answers:

The first is that a couple of years ago, when I first started chronicling the kids’ adventures in reading, they read shorter books. Therefore we could load, say, 117 My Weird School books onto the Kindle and send them on their way. Now that they are older, they read longer books, but fewer of them, and with more words per page. And they mess around all evening when they might be reading, doing things like talking to their friends and (ahem, girls) writing letters to their parents, who miss them. They’ll get through the books they bring, but don’t need as much of an inventory.

The second (although the first was more than one point), is that they are fundamentally indifferent to the platform on which they read. They have so many options at this point, and they are all “normal” now, as opposed to a couple of years ago when it was cool to read on a tablet, that they go with the most convenient (and frequently best looking). And in this case, the one they don’t need to plug in or keep safe from, say, getting wet.

So this morning I stood with a hundred or so other parents (around a third of whom were crying at any given time), waving vaguely at the tinted window where we think we saw our particular kid’s face flit by, though it could be Maya. My son, who just started a writing program and is now going to have my wife and me to himself for a couple of months, was waving frantically saying “I’ll miss you, I’ll miss you…heh.” Several of the other parents were people I went to school with myself, now with dogs on leashes and smaller children who haven’t yet started day camp holding on to them. I stepped back for a minute, looked around, and started humming Born to Run.

Jun 242013
 

Jeff Cohen

Author's note: The following post contains no review of Superman-new-1Man of Steel nor complaints about reviews of my books. That is entirely true. For my views on the new Superman movie, get in touch--I'll be glad to share. A day is long enough to think about it. For my ideas on reviews people have posted about my books: Everyone's entitled to an opinion. I hope they're all carefully considered.

One day last week I was checking the weather online. I know, a person could just look out the window and find out what the local weather is like, but thunderstorms had been forecast and I wanted to look at the map to see if one was in the area.

ANYWAY, I went to my local weather page to check, and saw a feature I'd never noticed before: Next to the forecast for today's weather were two icons, one labeled "love" and the other "ugh." A visitor to this site would click on either of those to indicate his/her level of approval on the weather.

On the weather.

It's possible that we're becoming a little too enamored of our own opinions.

Online reviews tend to come from... anybody, without any indication of background or qualification. I could write opera reviews. I know nothing, at all, about opera. How would you know?

There was a time, children, when in order to be a serious film critic, one actually had to have a background in film. In order to offer a public opinion on theater, it was generally assumed that a person had seen, let's say, a Shakespeare play performed live at least once. A music critic would be required to demonstrate a knowledge of the difference between Beethoven and Marvin Hamlisch.

I'm not going to get into the area of book reviews, because 1. Most of the reviewers of my books have been very kind and 2. If I said anything negative about those who weren't, it would be seen as sour grapes (which it might or might not be).

The point is that these days, the saying "everybody's a critic" has become a literal truth. The Internet, in all its glory, has opened the doors for comment to every person with a connection via computer, smartphone, tablet, or ESP. And that, I'm afraid, like most things online, has been taken to unwieldy extremes.

I will occasionally drop some opinions in this space on film or television. I have some background in that area, and no, I don't think that a person is an expert only when accredited by a paying media company. But the instant gratification of Twitter and Facebook and lord knows what other sites I completely don't understand has led to what I call No Impulse Control Reviews--those things we say in the rush of a new experience that we haven't really had a chance to think about yet.

For example: I am a lifelong Superman fan. I grew up on the Annex - Reeves, George_01George Reeves (seen here with McTavish, in case you think I'm lying) version, possibly the most popularly maligned, but I was four and he was Superman, however much in reruns. This weekend (in fact, yesterday) I went to see the new film trying to "reimagine the franchise" (every time I hear a phrase like that I thank my good fortune that my Hollywood dreams were never realized), Man of Steel. And I was sure, based on all the pre-release hype that went on, that I was destined to hate it.

Relax, I'm not enough of a hypocrite to offer an instant review of a movie in a post complaining about knee-jerk reviews. But that's the point--I haven't really had time to think it through and offer an intelligent opinion yet. The difference is that I know that, so I'm not going to give in to the impulse.

Anyone who's had a chance to view me in profile knows that I certainly don't repress every wrong impulse I have. But I do try to exercise control of the ones I can. 

We're given too many opportunities these days to express our opinions. Every web site we see asks us for feedback. Every time we make a purchase online, we are immediately asked to take a survey about our "buying experience." Every company from which we've ever bought a product wants us to Superman-george-reeves"like" it on Facebook. 

Do I really like a detergent? A toilet paper? A fax machine? No. They're there and I use them. The only time I'm likely to notice one over another is if there's a problem. I don't have an opinion on everything. Why am I being asked for one?

(Oddly, the opinions we have on things like politics and religion are the ones most people would rather not hear. But whether or not I "like" Dunkin' Donuts? Do tell!)

Please don't take this the wrong way: I don't want people to stop reviewing things. I especially don't want people to stop reviewing my work, even if they don't care much for it (although, I'm not encouraging you to do so if that's your opinion). But I do think we need to take a breath and do a little thinking before we express an opinion that's going out to an untold number of strangers.

Easy. Take a moment. That's it. Now... what do you think? Did you like today's weather?