THE AUDIO VERSION of James Gleick’s Isaac Newton is a mere five CDs — about two-and-a-half round trips to work. Newton was a genius, of course, a pioneer in mathematics and physics, yet I knew little of his life beyond the almost certainly apocryphal tale of the apple conking him on the head, leading to his theorizing about gravity. So I figured Gleick’s book was worth a listen.
SILVER LININGS Playbook is about football in the same way that Bull Durham is about baseball. Each sport plays an important role — it’s almost a secondary character — but never obscures the larger themes of relationships between damaged people. You don’t even have to be a fan to enjoy each film for the achievement it is.
Bradley Cooper’s Pat is just out of a mental health facility, where he spent eight months being treated for bipolar disorder after he kicked the ass of the guy bonking his wife. He’s living in his parents’ house in the Philadelphia suburbs, trying to jump-start his life and win back his wife. Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany is a young widow trapped by her own demons. She, too, is back with her folks; her salvation is a dance competition for which she’s training. Their uneasy alliance stumbles haltingly into a wobbly friendship in which each tries to help the other.
NOT LONG after I became a dad, contemporary, grown-up pop culture began fading from my radar. And so year-end best-of lists (movies, TV shows, songs, books, etc.) of the kind published over the last week hold much less sway with me these days. It’s hard to get excited over such things when you have lots of conversations that begin with “Remember that episode of Victorious when … ?”
Though I no longer read the content of such pieces, I have noticed that alongside the best-of lists, papers and magazines are running worst-ofs. This stinks.
YOU THOUGHT jamming yourself down a chimney, piling presents around an evergreen tree, and hightailing it out of there without waking a soul was something else?
Rise of the Guardians gives us a Santa Claus who’s a master swordsman with massive, tattooed forearms. Also an Easter Bunny who’s deadly with a boomerang, a Sandman who battles nightmares with golden fairy dust, and a Tooth Fairy with a molar fetish.
Some years back, somebody published a book examining our tendency to view ourselves as if characters in a film. I didn’t read the book, so I don’t recall whether its thesis was merely an observation or something larger, a sociological tsk-tsking of a helpless descent from our actual lives to an artificial media landscape.
Well, I had one of those Oh, Jesus, this feels like a movie moments Sunday.
I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak. … You know why? Because they don’t–they don’t happen very often. … If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are! And you should know that!
–Crash Davis, Bull Durham
Nobody said parenting was a picnic, but I wasn’t prepared for this.
Sunday afternoon: Game 6 of the Flyers-Penguins series is underway, and I’m strolling through a supermarket, not parked in front of a flat-screen, and that was just fine. I hadn’t watched as much as a face-off through the first three games, all wins for the Orange and Black. I’d tuned in to Games 4 and 5–losses. Clearly my viewership was the deciding factor.
Special Sauce is with me, though, and we keep up with Game 6 thanks to my iPhone. It isn’t long before she asks, “Dad, can we watch when we get home?”