howmanybeards

Tag: summer

063: The To Do List

Over the weekend the misses (missus?) and I went to see The To Do List. Let’s just say it is a masterpiece of 90’s nostalgia. If you haven’t heard of it, watch the trailer and then go see it.

The movie stars Aubrey Plaza who if you know her from anywhere probably know her from Parks And Rec. If not then you’ll definitely remember her as “that funny girl you’ve seen in a bunch of things but can’t remember her name.” Plaza normal gets pretty type cast as a dead pant master of snark. In The To Do List she finally gets to break out of that role as a virginal teen in the 90’s who has decided to finally start her sexual education before she goes to college.

THE-TO-DO-LIST

 

While the movie is funny in its own regard, a lions share of my enjoyment came from how well it nails the 90’s nostalgia. Probably the best example of this is the spot on attire worn by Bill Hader, Donald Glover, Rachel Bilson, Andy Samberg, and the rest of the suprisingly star studded cast. But the setting does more than present a fun callback, it helps the movie. Had it been set now the core funny factor in the movie would have been killed by the fact that one can hop on the internet and Google everything. In the film it’s up to Plaza’s character, with a little help from her friends to discover what exactly all the things on her list are from “rim job” to “motorboating.”

the to do list popsicle

 

The To Do List is an excellent summer comedy, but is also a wonderful look at female sexuality. It allows the women in the movie to explore their sexuality without the traditional movie drama of them being labeled a slut or an overwhelming load of sap and sentimentality. At the end of the day it’s a refreshing take on the High School Sexual Awakening movie we’ve all seen once too many.

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060: ‘Salem’s Lot

There are a lot of different ways to describe different types or genres of literature. So many that I never really bothered to pay attention to them. Simply one more way for people to classify, pigeonhole, and thereby engender a license to be an elitist prick about something. I can only imagine that most people don’t have very kind descriptors for the kind of work that Stephen King writes, but regardless of his literary merits there is one undeniable tenant to his work: it’s fun to read. I’ve read a few other books by King over the last few years and have always found them entertaining. I even read his half advice/half memoir On Writing and found it uniquely interesting (but that’s a conversation for another post). Most recently I was in the midst of prepping for a trip to Boston, MA and Portsmouth, NH so I swung by the library and picked up a copy of a distinctly New Englandish book, ‘Salem’s Lot

salems lot cover

Now for all you font/grammar weirdos out there, let me clarify right off the bat that the apostrophe at the front of ‘Salem’s Lot is not a typo. Right away in the book they identify that the setting is a town called Jerusalem’s Lot, conveniently shortened to ‘Salem’s Lot. King even provides a back story. To me the most interesting part was the brief insight that Jerusalem contains the word Salem. But whatever.

The main reason I’m convening a post on this book though is its subject matter.  This is a story about vampires. Now you might already be clicking for the close window button but hear me out for just a second. Yes, vampires are played out, over saturated, or whatever you want to call it, but that’s exactly what makes ‘Salem’s Lot so satisfying. It was King’s 2nd novel and it was published in 1975. What this creates is a charming and refreshing take on the vampire menace. There’s nothing sexy going on here, just old school unspeakable horror in the night style vampires who want nothing more to consume. As an added bonus the setting naturally precludes all modern amenities (cell phones, internet research, etc,). And lastly, this is from when King was still fresh to writing, when he was writing more for himself than for any audience.

I am recommending ‘Salem’s Lot as fodder for your next thesis paper? No. But am I recommending it as a incredibly fun and compelling read? Absolutely. So get to it. 

Have you read ‘Salem’s Lot? Any thoughts or concerns? Leave’em in the comments.

057: 1776

1776 4/5

What do you know about the American Revolutionary War? Hopefully you know that we won. That’s usually a good place to start. You might know we fought the English when they were still truly Great Britain. Hell, maybe you’ve even seen the Patriot and have some inkling of how horrific the war actually was. More than likely though you don’t really know much. That’s where David McCullough comes in. He’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author who specializes in historical accounts and biographies. You’re probably most familiar with his book John Adams, or more likely the superb mini-series HBO made based on it. But I digress, we’re here to talk about 1776.

1776-mccullough

 

Let’s clear something up right away. This is a book about history. This is not a History Book. You probably won’t realize until you get to the end and see that the last 40 pages or so are filled with the references, bibliography, and index that this book is exhaustively well researched. But thank god it is because it’s the details that make 1776 what it is. The book follows the Continental Army from roughly the time Washington is appointed General/right after Bunker Hill all the way up through his crossing of the Delaware to rout the Hessian soldiers from Trenton. It primarily follows Washington and provides thorough insight to his psyche during these 18 months or so, but it also follows several other lesser known heroes of the Revolutionary War, the young men whom Washington came to trust most to help lead his army.

battle of princeton

The book is not terribly long, less than 300 pages, but still manages to pack in a dizzying amount of easily digestible information without moving at a snail’s pace. Rather, McCullough gives you just enough to make you feel smart but not too much to make you feel like you’re studying for a midterm. I would definitely recommend this for Summer Reading as a nice break to all that fast fiction or lady empowerment comedy stuff you’re reading. Plus Independence Day is right around the corner.