Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Summer Look

Note: New blog header uploaded. I like it, but feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

Three weeks into the real world and I already understand why people always say college is the best four years of your life. If you've got any sense at all, you know you have it good, sometimes great, during those four years. But once you get a real job, it hits you: I have to work? Like, every day? Fuck.

Yeah, not a great realization. Especially when the average time I woke up last semester was about 10:30 or 11 a.m. and I'm currently an hour and a half into my shift right now and it's 7:30. Jesus. But at least the only thing I'm responsible for right now as the only person in the newsroom (and probably the only human being awake at such an ungodly hour) is watch the idiots on WMUR, check three local newspaper websites, check the fax machine for police logs, check the AP Wire for anything interesting, listen to the police scanner, check the news computer for press releases that come in, and write up little live briefs for the web. Sounds like a lot, but believe me it's not. Why do you think I'm sitting here blogging for the first time in over a month?

Certainly, the MoJo shift (6am to 2pm) has a lot of responsibility. Say, if a massive fire or a major arrest or something crazy like that happens this early in the morning, it's all up to me to cover it and get it online. Moderately terrifying. But then I remember we live in New Hampshire, and I can breathe again. All I've had to do in the past two hours is write a three-inch brief about a Hudson kid who rolled his car yesterday, post two wire stories, and make four or five useless walks over to the fax machine/news computer. So that's what I get up for in the morning. What did you do? Sleep? OK, probably about equal effort then.

You can check out some of my front page stories so far though. Here, here and here. Enjoy. The rest of the stuff I've written is pretty meh. Even I'd tell you to skip it and pick up a book instead.

Speaking of books, I'm up to 22 so far this year for a total of 6,135 pages. And since the fax machine was empty again and the 'Send/Receive' button on the News computer came back with nada, I've got more time to write.

So I'm going to review them here. Yes, all of them. Because I'd prefer to do that than call more police officers who'd rather get shot than tell me about a minor accident in their no-name New Hampshire town.

Anyway, the book thing started with a New Year's Resolution to read 100 this year (a number that I've noticed is astronomically high for anyone younger than 80 years old) and so far I'm way behind. But, I have been reading consistently, and that's the real goal. And 22 books halfway through the year is a decent number. Here's what I've read since January, in order of when I read them:
  • Piecework by Pete Hamill - Hamill is one of my favorite authors and until I read this book, I had no idea he was a journalist for a long time. This is a great book for travel writing and has plenty of good stories in it.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - Funny, short and famous. Good characters. I wanted to read some Capote and this was a good way to get a sense of his writing style.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - One of the best books I've ever read. Chilling, intense, page-turning. It's shocking to believe a story this good and this incredibly detailed could actually be true. A must read.
  • On Writing by Stephen King - I didn't really think I was going to like this book, but I actually loved it. The last thing I read by Stephen King was The Shining when I was about 15 and I swore I'd never read him again (I don't do well with horror anything). But On Writing was candid, realistic and helpful for anyone who wants to write. I loved it.
  • The Tender Bar by J.R. Moeringer - Great memoir about a guy who grew up in New York City around a bar his whole life. I think I liked this book so much because I felt a strong connection with the author. Seemed a lot like me. A good pick if you like memoir.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - Good fiction by a great writer. I'm not sure I agree with his Pulitzer for this book, but it was a good story. I enjoyed it. I was a little annoyed with the crazy amount and length of his footnotes, but I'd say it's worth reading.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - So wonderful and beautiful it's hard to call it a book. What's that? No, I don't have a vagina. Men can be romantic too. And I loved this book. It might even be my all-time favorite. I just love the language, the words, the story, the way he tells it; it's woven just perfectly. Another must read, but it helps if you have a romantic side.
  • Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver - A great collection of short stories by one of fiction's best short-story writers. Read it if you like short stories. I'm not big on them myself, mostly because I like stories that don't abruptly end ambiguously in ways I can't understand (always feel like I'm missing something). That said, Carver is still a great read.
  • The Good Soldiers by David Finkel - Unbelievable true story of life in Iraq. The author spent two years over there with the troops and he came out with one hell of a book. Seriously, if you think you know anything about a soldier's life in the Middle East, think again. This book changes your whole mentality and will depress the hell out of you. It'll color up your vocabulary and make you feel for anyone's family with a kid over there. Truly an amazing story.
  • Justice by Michael Sandel - I read it for my persuasive writing class. The guy who wrote it is a Harvard professor and writes well. Pretty cool stuff about philosophy and all that. But it gets slow at times and asks way more questions than it answers.
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - I hadn't read any Salinger since I was in high school, so I picked up Catcher in the Rye a little while after the writing legend died in late January. Still as great as I remember, with Holden Caufield as one of literature's greatest characters.
  • Trash by Dorothy Allison - A bunch of vivid stories that seem fictional but aren't. The author is a lesbian who grew up on a farm with a family of nutjobs. The book is mostly little vignettes of her life, and they vary from interesting to crazy.
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - A good book about the Tarahumara runners in Mexico and the author's experience with them. To be honest, the guy's a pretty crappy writer but the subject was interesting to me. I thought it was very cool that wayy back in the day, humans used to run their prey to death. It's the only explanation as to how we could have evolved as a species, since humans are slower and weaker than just about everything else.
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby - I love this movie and I've always liked Nick Hornby, so I had high expectations for the book. It met them. I thought the book was just as funny, if not funnier at times, than the movie and it was a quick read. It helps too that the movie wasn't entirely scripted from the book, so there were new parts of the story sprinkled among the great lines of the movie. I wish they had Jack Black's line in there somewhere though..."That's the worst fuckin' sweater I've ever seen's COSBY sweater, a COS-BY SWEA-TAH!"
  • Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger - I already said I'm not a big fan of short stories, but Salinger is a different breed. His writing is just so inviting. You can always relate to the characters, I feel, because they talk and speak and act like real people. The generation is different and the language is clearly outdated, but that doesn't take away from the connection. Each of these nine stories are worth reading many times over.
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - Amazing amounts of research usually makes for a boring-as-hell book, but not in Gladwell's case. He writes with such ease, such relatability, that I went out and bought his other two books to read sometime this year. I really like his writing style and how much work he puts into his books. Crazy guy to look at though. Makes you wonder if he's actually the abandoned lovechild of Harry Potter and Sideshow Bob.
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - The only book of the 22 that I didn't enjoy. The subject matter didn't particularly interest me (all about the health crisis in our country and nutrition) but I read it because I had to for my persuasive writing class. Not great writing and not a great approach to his argument, I thought, but lots of people like this book. Then again, lots of people like NASCAR, American Idol or mayonnaise on their french fries. It ain't right!
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - A very cool 'get in touch with nature' kind of book. Bryson is a hilarious writer and I'll probably read more of him. This book is about his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail and the only thing I didn't really like about it was the history and preachiness of "Save the Wildlife!" every once in a while. Other than that, I'd recommend it.
  • Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern - It's amazing to me that a guy can get a book contract (and soon a TV show) based on nothing but a Twitter account. It's hilarious and awesome and a quick read, but it still boggles my mind.
  • When the Game Was Ours by Jackie MacMullan - No, I'm not giving any credit to Magic Johnson or Larry Bird for "writing" this book even though they're the main authors on the cover with UNH alum Jackie MacMullan's name in small print underneath them. She wrote it because she's the writer. Very good sports book though. Really cool angle on how these two superstars were so obsessed with each other throughout their careers. I don't really like professional basketball and don't particularly care much about what it was like in the 80s, but MacMullan's writing got me past all that.
  • Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger - My most recent read is another Salinger masterpiece. Everyone talks about Catcher in the Rye, but if you read anything else by him you really start to understand why he's so good. I liked this book even more than Catcher in the Rye, to be honest, because it was almost like it had two Holden Caufields. Franny and Zooey aren't anything like Holden, but they are two separate characters that you can connect with in the same way. It's really an amazing little book.
I'm more than halfway through my shift now since I've had to periodically stop blogging to start working, but it felt good to actually spend some time doing something constructive at work rather than update my Twitter feed 10 times in four minutes or check ESPN every minute on the minute. So, I'll be back at some point. I'd like to make this blog not always about Red Wings and get it back to the space where I can just let go and write. It's an essential part of life, after all.

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