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Inspirational Reads

Review Time: These Things Come in Threes

July 3, 2008

Since I'm lazy, I haven't done much else but read. Paint falling off the house? Let's read a book. Siding buckling and rotting? Turn those pages! Strange sounds coming from the high grass in the front lawn and perhaps a panda sighting at the edge of the property? Just one more chapter!

And, of course, the wood splitting on all the decks on the house? Let's blog!

First up, Tales from the Hoosier Locker Room by John Laskowski with help from Stan Sutton. Growing up, I was familiar with Laskowski as the color man to Ted Kitchel during the ESPN-plus/Raycom local broadcasts of Indiana games--before ESPN decided to do away with any sort of "local" flavor to the local broadcasts of games in favor of more corporate "unbiased" douchebags that seem in excess over at the World Wide Leader. Laskowski played for Indiana from 1972 to 1975, which is how he's connected to the program enough to write a book about it. Another fun fact: Laz attended high school at the private school where the buxom and comely Boudicca taught Latin for a year while I was still in grad school.

This book reads pretty much as if it was written by a former player-cum-sportscaster.

It's not to say it's awful; if you're a fan of the program (which I am) and you enjoy a good read while doing your sit-down duties on the crapper (which I do), this might be the perfect book for you. Or, if you like to read in the back yard while your kids are running through the yard like wild apes (which I do) and need to keep some of your attention on said wild apes while they are throwing rocks, sticks, grass, logs and each other into the stream out back, this might be the perfect book for you. Or, if you just really like schlocky, short-tales stuffed together into loose chapter forms, this might be the book for you.

Okay, you get it: Pulitzer Prize winning material, this isn't. Even if you view this through cream-and-crimson-colored glasses, you're going to be somewhat disappointed. Written the year after Indiana's epic fail trip to the championship game in 2002, a lot of the stories revolve around the early years of the program and the years after Mike Davis took over the team. What's missing? A lot of the Bob Knight years. There's a lot of stories about Knight's teams, but for a program whose glory days revolved around the General at the helm, there's not a lot of Knight in it. I realize this was only a couple of years after Knight was summarily run out of town, but still.

Another disturbing thing was the lack of player interviews. There were plenty coming from Laskowski's team mates, but even for the team at the time, there weren't a lot of stories. Highly disappointing was the lack of stories surrounding players like Calbert Cheaney, Alan Henderson, Michael Lewis, Eric Anderson, Matt Nover...there was a small bit about Cheaney's ankle being broken in high school, but other than that, you would never have known that the 1992 team went to the Final Four and the 1993 team was ranked Number 1 going into the tournament. Hell, there's not even one mention of Todd Leary, Laskowski's radio counterpart.

Overall, the premise is a good one, but the book just leaves a lot to be desired. I understand that, at the time, the program was trying to distance itself from Knight so that Davis--who had just guided the team to a runner-up position--didn't have to live in Knight's shadow. Still, there could have been a lot more here that simply wasn't provided. At the end, when I finished, I closed the book and thought, "Meh" and simply plopped it on my "done" pile.

Next up, Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. I realize this book is 13 years old, and that perhaps dates some of the jokes and stories in it, but this was still an enjoyable read. As one reviewer put it, Bryson has a knack for lovingly making fun of someone so that they don't feel offended at all, or something to that effect. This is true in most of his books, though I can't figure out what he has against Indiana. It's not like Iowa has a lot to brag about. But, I digress.

I've recently been reading through Bill Bryson's material, mostly because I became real sick of epic/high fantasy and decided to branch out for a while. With Bryson's stories, the epic journey is still there, but it's littered with much more outrageous characters and not as much frilly language. This book is no different. Often, I find myself wanting to stuff my gear into a backpack and follow his trip, whether it be a year-long tour of the United States, a trip up the Appalachian Trail, or, as we see in Notes from a Small Island, a six-week tour of Great Britain. While Bryson's story does encompass much of the rich history of the island, it was also a reflection on the current state of economic affairs in many of the British cities. One thing that often annoys me about Bryson's writing is his distaste for modern architecture and construction. I understand that the concrete facade of a shopping mall does not go well with the historical buildings of many British cities, but to keep bringing the point up time and again gets tiresome.

While this is one complaint, it does not distract from the tale woven about traveling around the island using primarily public transportation. Bryson deftly weaves together historical aspects of each city he visits with a wry humor that covers a vast array of subjects, whether it's the weather to the different accents encountered on his journey. In all, he paints a loving, humorous tale about not just an island but also the people who inhabit it. This is definitely well worth the read, especially if you happen to know or work with people who originally come from Great Britain.

And finally, we hit My Boring Ass Life by Kevin Smith. Basically, this is a compilation of his posts from his blog. Unfortunately, for about four fifths of the book, the stories can be boiled down to this: let the dogs out, took a shit, watched a movie, went out to eat, banged my wife, watched the Simpsons, fell asleep.

Reading about his time spent shooting Catch and Release did make things a bit more interesting, but the studio's worrisome treatment of his blog made that story suddenly less appealing about halfway through. However, it was interesting to see how a movie is shot from the inside, especially through the eyes of someone who makes a film rather than routinely acts in them (because, being Silent Bob doesn't require a lot of acting). Also, I didn't know he was in this movie until I read about it, but I still haven't seen it. I'm not a big Jennifer Garner fan, nor am I a fan of this genre of movie. Also, it has a character named Persephone, which, unless we're talking about Greek Myth, usually makes me a touch wary.

After the Catch stories, it's back to learning what is coming out of Smith's bowels and when. Finally, as he nears the production of Clerks II, the stories become far more entertaining, especially the story Me and My Shadow which is a tale told in nine parts about the events surrounding cleaning Jason Mewes (more commonly known as Jay, both on the screen and in Smith's life) up from a life of heroin and crack addiction. The posts from then on get far more enticing, as Smith relates dealing with assbag fans, anonymous douchebags on the internet panning his flicks, and wraps things up with how he got the part of Warlock in Live Free or Die Hard/Die Hard 4 and the subsequent retooling and shooting of the part for the movie.

Overall, I could have done without the daily updates showing just how boring ass Smith's life is, and gone with more of the written stories that bear more of a resemblance to the his "Evening With" material (in fact, several of the stories appear in both places). If you can wade through the shit (pun intended), this is an amusing read. It especially goes well with the time spent in the smallest room in the house, not because it stinks, but because the anecdotes and episodes are broken up into short, easily read fragments.

And, because I feel that you should never end a story talking about spending time on the shitter, here:


Lisa-tastrophies said...

You are so much nicer than I would have been. After a few chapters of shit, I would have thrown it in the trash and moved on to my next book. Self-indulgence is fine with me, but self-indulgent shit crosses the line.

On a more positive note, where can I get that outfit Leelee is wearing? I have a summer school parent-teacher conference I want to make an impression at and that dress would definitely work :-) Good to see the gratuitous Leelee pics are still coming :-)

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I'm not sure where you can get a dress like that. Unfortunately, the judge was pretty specific, and I'm not allowed to ask Ms. Sobieski about her fashion purchases, nor root through her trash looking for sales receipts.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

LOL!!! I'm sure the judge would be understanding if it was for a "friend" :-)

McGone said...

Smith's book is good to read in the shitter until you get to the part about his anal fissures. Holy crap (no pun intended) that's a horrible story. (I'm assuming it's in the book anyway, as it was on his blog).