I can give you a long list of favorites, but who reads those
anyway? Here are the most recent picks to win my heart:
1.) Brooklyn Love Stories (Jenny Bahn) - A bunch of
twenty-somethings in Brooklyn pursue love with equal parts cynicism
and sheer daring. It made me want to make the 14-hour drive just to
tape up every single fragile/broken heart featured in these
2.) The Lower River (Paul Theroux) - A newly divorced and retired
man feels nostalgic about his stint as a teacher in a remote corner
of Malawi four decades ago and decides to go back for a visit. He's
heartily embraced by the locals, most of whom only know him by
legend, but he soon realizes that there might be a more nefarious
reason why the villagers are eager to welcome him "home" -- and are
equally reluctant to let him leave. After my own dreadful experiences in West
-- as well as other corners of the world where I could
have easily disappeared with no one the wiser -- I found this book
to be utterly terrifying.
3.) The Troop (Nick Cutter) - A terrific horror novel that also
unfolds into a harrowing coming-of-age story. Its premise is
similar to "Lord of the Flies" -- this time it's a Boy Scout troop
stranded on an island infested with something truly insidious --
but there's also many parallels to Stephen King's "The Body" (which
was adapted into the film "Stand By Me"). It's a brisk read that
deftly touches upon the (blindly) accepted behaviors and pressures
adolescent males endure in order to fit in. Add the survival
element, and the established hierarchies begin to fluctuate wildly
-- sometimes for the better . . . sometimes not.
1.) The Babadook - I caught this horror masterpiece at the Chicago
International Film Festival back in October, and I've been raving
about it ever since. (I've hosted screenings of it five times now
and even bought the special edition pop-up book featured in the
film.) With all the talk about women and minorities being
underrepresented at the Oscars this year, it is fucking criminal
that Jennifer Kent didn't get nominated for her original screenplay
on a grieving single mother, her unruly son and the literal
boogeyman who's decided to pay them a visit. Try to catch this on a
big screen with a worthy sound system; the sound mixing/design of
this film is to die for.
2.) Birdman - Thus far my absolute favorite film of the decade. The
writing is flawless, and every performance is utterly fascinating.
I've seen it twice in the theaters and plan on catching it at least
once more before it finishes its run.
3.) Whiplash - One of the most kinetic films I've seen in ages with
absolute stunning performances from both Teller (who was utterly
robbed of a Best Actor nod) and Simmons (who will deservedly take
the statue home). Seriously, this film left me breathless.
4.) Coherence - Magnificent indie sci-fi film with a bizarre
premise and a shoe-string budget. If writer/director James Ward
Byrkit can consistently deliver with this kind of quality
storytelling, he will be making waves soon enough.
5.) The Lunchbox - Delightful and somewhat bittersweet Indian film
about a long-suffering housewife who starts a correspondence with
an older man who accidentally receives the lunches originally made
for her husband. I won't give anything away, but this is one of
those films that reveals that even the smallest acts of kindness --
listening, empathizing, sharing a meal, letting other people in --
can inspire us to make more of our lives. "Sometimes the wrong
train will take you to the right station", indeed.
My passion for music extends across all genres, but I'm mostly
rock-based and definitely lyrically-focused. Of late:
1.) Lissie / Back to Forever - Whenever Stevie Nicks is ready to
pass the torch, Lissie will undoubtedly be there to hold it high.
Seriously, this woman is a heartbreaker.
2.) William Topley & The Sea Gypsies / Aristocrats of the South
Seas - One of my all-time favorite songwriters. His best album in a
3.) Dave Anthony / Shame Chamber - Dave Anthony has a knack for
stumbling (blindly) into the most awkward of social interactions.
This record leaves me howling with laughter every time I listen to
Note: I've had the good fortune to interview a lot of great bands
big and small over the last decade on The Sound Of
You & Me
And speaking of Podcasts:
The Smartest Man in the World, Never Not Funny, Radio Lab, This
American Life, RISK!, Wait, Wait... and The Moth help kill a lot of
time at work.
Food (aka my favorite Chicago-centric meals):
Peanut Butter Shake @ The Brown Sack
worth living, dying and killing for. Seriously.)
Turkey Club @ The Rocking Horse
Ground Nut Stew and Smoked Gouda Mac 'n' Cheese @ Handlebar
Pantera @ Kuma's Corner
Sprecher's Root Beer(!)
Chorizo from my neighborhood deli.
I love breakfast! That said, I've lived in Chicago for nearly 15
years. Where can I get good hashbrowns around here already?!