The Book I Just Finished

The Romford Pelé: It’s Only Ray Parlour’s Autobiography

I recently took a break after reading some excellent, but, shall we say, “heavier” pieces of literature (On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Dubliners by James Joyce), and devoured Ray Parlour’s recently released autobiography. What fun! As an Arsenal supporter with vivid memories of Parlour’s time at Arsenal it was a joy to romp down memory lane and follow his career as put forth in a tidy series of vignettes, recollections, and stories. He was never a star, but rather a key cog in the wheel of one of the best sides in history, and a critical link between the boozy days of the late 80s/early 90s and the refined professionalism ushered in by Arsène Wenger when he took charge in 1996. An unexpected delight was his take on his time at Hull City with a certain Dean Windass. Suffice to say, my assumptions about the stout striker’s lifestyle have been confirmed. Windass indeed…


David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Room At The Top by John Braine
On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
City Of Night by John Rechy
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Iliad by Homer
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell
Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Halls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall
David Bomberg by Richard Cork
Blast by Wyndham Lewis
Passing by Nella Larson
Beyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto
The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
The Divided Self by R. D. Laing
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman
The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodieby Muriel Spark
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Puckoon by Spike Milligan
Black Boy by Richard Wright
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
McTeague by Frank Norris
Money by Martin Amis
The Outsider by Colin Wilson
Strange People by Frank Edwards
English Journey by J.B. Priestley
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
1984 by George Orwell
The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
Beano (comic, ’50s)
Raw (comic, ’80s)
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage
Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley
The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillete
Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky
The Street by Ann Petry
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Last Exit To Brooklyn By Hubert Selby, Jr.
A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn
The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
The Bridge by Hart Crane
All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Saunders
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
Nowhere To Run The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich
Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Teenage by Jon Savage
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Viz (comic, early ’80s)
Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)
Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Maldodor by Comte de Lautréamont
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler
Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Leopard by Giusseppe Di Lampedusa
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
A Grave For A Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan
A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
Journey Into The Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg

James Bond’s World War I Origins

The Atlantic has an interesting essay on how the genre of British espionage fiction owes a lot to the undercover activities and nationalistic tensions of the First World War. Graham Greene and Ian Fleming both dabbled in actual espionage for their government – albeit behind the scenes – and this certainly helped them write with greater authenticity.

RiddleofTheSandsChildersOddly, although the author does discuss the writer Erskine Childers (author of the great nautical spy classic ‘Riddle of the Sands’), he neglects to discuss the irony of how Childers was ultimately executed for treason during the Irish Civil War after he had grown to reject every aspect of the British Empire he once cherished.

Additionally, most of Graham Greene’s spy fiction (which he himself thought was his worst writing) was written in the 1920s and 30s long before he worked in government intelligence, another weak link made by the author.

Here’s the article in question.

Rest in Peace, Tom Sharpe


Brilliantly funny and rich in sarcastic wit in the style of his hero Evelyn Waugh, Tom Sharpe was a terrific English writer. Sadly, he was not nearly as well known in the United States as Waugh or P.G. Wodehouse, and many of his books are not even in print on this side of the pond. Masterpiece Theatre did make shows out of a couple of his novels – Porterhouse Blues and Blott on the Landscape.

If you are lucky enough to find one of Tom Sharpe’s actual books, definitely pick it up and give it a read. He was similar in comic style to Kingsley Amis, but even more cutting. You won’t be disappointed. Incidentally, his second wife, Nancy Anne Looper, who survives him and is the mother of his three children, is originally from North Carolina. So there is one more reason to read his books.

The Guardian has an excellent obituary.

From the Yardarm Kitchen… Minty Cream of Butternut Squash Soup

It’s still winter, friends. Take the chill off with a tasty soup. Here’s a recipe from Dad’s Cookbook: Family Classics from Sunset Beach, which Yardarm compiled, edited, and designed.

Butternut SquashMinty Cream of Butternut Squash Soup

This is the last of my soup recipes for now, but it’s a goody. For this beautiful smooth and creamy soup I cook butternut squash until tender and then puree it. The key is how thick you like your soup. If you like it thick and rich, this is your kind of soup. I only use 2 cups of stock and 1 cup water.



1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces 1 medium onion, peeled, and sliced (about a cup)
11⁄2 teaspoons curry powder
11⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup water (or two if you like your soup thin)
2 cups chicken stock (once again you can make it 3 cups depending on how you like your soup)
2 sprigs fresh mint
1 small leek, trimmed and cut into thin strips (julienne)
1 medium carrot, trimmed and peeled, and cut into thin strips (julienne)
Salt and pepper to taste

So, let’s get on with it.

Place the squash, onion, water, stock, curry powder, and cumin in a pot. Add the mint twigs (stems and all), and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover. Cook the soup for about 45 minutes or until the squash is tender.

While the squash is cooking, put the julienne carrots and leeks in a small pot with a cup of stock and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. Once the squash is done put all the ingredients into a blender and puree. Place the julienne carrots and leeks in serving bowls with the broth from the veggies and add the soup.

Inauguration Number 57

IMG_1771“I’ll hook you up, ” said my buddy as he exited the holiday party. The buddy in question is close with President Obama and was heavily involved with inauguration planning. I hadn’t really considered attending any of the hoopla, but with family in the area and a place to crash, I figured it’d be worth the trip up to D.C. to check out some of the festivities.

First on the agenda was the Kids’ Inaugural Concert. Hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the concert was arranged to honor military families’ children. The idea is admirable. Sadly, the music and performances on offer were not. Usher began things by dancing around and yelling, “Yeah!”, over and over. There was heavy bass and not in a good way. More like an overpowering, fuzzy, uncomfortable way. After Usher’s antics, some guys named Far East Movement did their best (worst?) Black Eyed Peas imitation, Mindless Behavior put on a confusing display of synced dancing, and iLuminate danced around in illuminated suits. At the end, Katy Perry came out in her Wonder Woman-inspired leotard with her crew of dancers and had the kids screaming. The odd and disconcerning thing about the whole event was the amount of songs about love. And not the lovey-dovey type of love you’d expect at a kids concert. No, the majority of the songs were simply ill-disguised inuendos about that other type of love. Thankfully, there was the Chicago Soul Children’s Choir along with two guys called Black Violin to save the night. They were pretty impressive with their rendition of “Come Together”.


Katy Perry Gets Patriotic…

I took the day off Sunday in preparation for Monday morning. I met my sister at the Metro station and we headed down to Gallery Place. Once downtown, we entered the fray as the masses made their way to the Mall. We waited about 45 minutes in line to get through security. Every electronic device had to be turned on. Word of advice: Don’t get behind the family with four phones, four cameras, an iPad, a video camera, and a Kindle. Once through security we followed the signs to our section. We made it close to our section but could go no further. There were loads of people already there in front of us. It was 9:30am and the ceremony was set to begin at 11:30am.

We assessed out situation. It wasn’t ideal. The primary villain was a massive tree that blocked our view of the podium. Suddenly, people started running. They were moving forward as barriers were opened by the Homeland Security/U.S. Park Police/D.C. Police/Metro Transit Police/U.S. Capitol Police/Secret Service/Smithsonian Police officers in the area. The problem was, the gates were not near us. We were trapped behind a barrier. A few people climbed over the barrier and joined the surging throngs. “Let’s do it,” I said to me sister. I linked my hands, gave her a boost, and she was over. I followed, thinking to myself, “God, I’m getting old,” as my wrists screamed in agony under the weight of my frame. Thankfully, I made it over and we landed in a much improved location at the end of the Capitol lawn.

We could see! We saw James Taylor play guitar and heard him sing. He’s not quite Sweet Baby James anymore. More like Scratchy Old Man James. Regardless, his rendition of “America the Beautiful” was nice and brief. We saw and heard Kelly Clarkson sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, and we saw and heard Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama take their oathes and Obama give his speech. The speech was solid. I enjoyed the shout out to the Stonewall Uprising and how, “…our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.” I thought that was pretty cool.

After he was done, we were done, too. We did not see Beyoncé NOT sing the National Anthem, but we heard the recording as we headed to the Navy Yard Metro stop and away from the huddled masses. It was time for a nap.

Ironing Board Sam

The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill is a fine establishment all on its own, but it takes on a whole new luster when Ironing Board Sam is at the piano. Ironing Board doesn’t just play piano, he sits down and takes command of the ebony and ivory. His blues spill out from some kind of ever-deepening well and his prowess at the keyboard is astonishing. You just know…something divine is at work here. The combination of Ironing Board’s electric spirit and the finely tuned cocktails at Crunkleton are a heady mix for sure, but it was the music itself and the reverberations of one man’s soul filtered through his instrument that left me slightly wobbly and skyward-looking. After his set, I felt a little lighter and a lot more centered. That’s what the blues are supposed to do after all. Here’s to you Ironing Board. I’ll be seeing you again soon.

Check out this video from 1965.

On Obscure Objects of Cinema: Oh, Canada. Oh, Nostalgia.

(One in an occasional       series of film retrospectives.)

My old travelin’ pal Nick just published a piece in Ballast on the Canadian cult film Goin’ Down the Road (dir. Donald Shebib, 1970), on the heels of the release of its late, recent sequel. A movie guy, I previously had heard about the film, but, as frequently correlates with the cultishly obscure, had never had occasion to see it. Nick had formerly written and edited for Adbusters magazine in Vancouver, BC, and was one of the inspiring minds behind cutting-edge movement-media group birocreative, so given his media-and-culture savvy, but also accounting for his not-so-discerning taste for all things Canuckian, my curiosity, naturally, was piqued.

I like old road movies, and I like quirky North-o’-the-Border cult flicks (probably due to too much access to across-the-lake Toronto television back in my blooming years). The films of Canadian directors David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan rate among my contemporary favorites, so, noticing that Ballast previously had ranked Goin’ Down the Road at #7 on their list of the 50 Best Canadian Films Ever Made, among numerous Cronenberg and Egoyan selections (Dead Ringers #1!!1one1!!), I figured Nick had struck Molson Gold (which itself, Molson, turns out to assume the role of one of the obscure objects of the film). And, as often occurs with obscure objects, I had to have it (the film, not the beer–Molson’s not so hard to come by south of the border). Still, the picture itself is hard enough to find outside of Canada; fortunately, however, the Internet Age allows the keen-and-inquiring eye to discover these objects, if one desires. (In the parlance: Google that s#it, pirate hooker; you can find it fast, furious, and for free.)

Goin’ Down the Road‘s a comin’-of-age buddy flick, a little Jules et Jim, a little Jim Jarmusch, a little Last Picture Show and early Cassavetes, and, as Nick notes, a lot Bob & Doug McKenzie, as it follows pals Pete (Doug McGrath) and Joey (Paul Bradley), the “original hosers,” in their pursuit of…something obscure.  It’s also a fun little romp across the Great White North (by Northeast) and into a Toronto you probably haven’t seen. They don’t, as they say, make movies like this anymore. Along with the internet, we live, of course, in the Age of the Sequel, the Era of the Remake, where simulation reigns, where twilights twitter, and where Toronto now stands in as New York. Yet my friend wouldn’t have revisited Goin’ Down the Road, and I wouldn’t have finally found it, without the recent release of its sequel, Down the Road Again (dir. Shebib, 2011). The sequel, as I gather from the trailer, catches up with Pete in the present day, after the death of his buddy. McGrath reprises his role 40 years after the original, and the story mirrors the actors’ lives, Bradley having passed in 2003. In the interim, the duo followed up their first film foray by banding together again in Wedding in White (dir. William Fruet, 1972, and featuring Donald Pleasence, which may not improve their Bacon Number, but certainly boosts their Hopper Factor). And speaking of sequels, McGrath has since taken turns in several Eastwood Westerns and as a gym teacher in Porky’s. Oh, the nostalgia.

In the sequel, Pete follows the wishes of his old best buddy, driving the same Chevy convertible to retrace their original path and spread Joey’s ashes across their now-beloved-yet-long-forsaken Cape Breton. A Last Orders for the Nova Scotia set, I suppose, and a nostalgic return to the original, something so often passed over in contemporary sequels. So, I guess we can thank The Sequel, writ large, for something obscure in itself, when it leads us back to the long-ago original.  I’ll have to ask Nick if he got around to watching the new one, but I think he too probably left it with the trailer. He and I, we prefer the retro to the remake.