It’s been awhile! Prepare for a full-on content dump.

Like the rest of you, I now find myself in that dark place between Mad Men and Breaking Bad. It’s more depressing than being in between Bulls and Bears season, but thankfully, not as long. Was that a bit of a spastic season of Mad Men? Some incredibly high highs, but I think I’d rather the late great Lane Pryce punch me in the face before I see more of Megan’s acting career. It’s hard to make it as an actress. We get it. I liked things a lot more when you were sassing up a HoJo in upstate New York, Mrs. Draper. I found all of your Bizarro Betty moments to be highly entertaining, but it’s hard for me to care in the slightest about your auditions, even when you’re doing cool stuff like using your husband’s agency to kneecap your friend. If I want to watch lame stories about acting, I can watch Entourage. Sorry I’m not sorry.

This might surprise you, given the title, but this was dark. Like, go ahead and hold off reading it until winter kind of dark. But definitely read it. Nobody ever really talks about the resistance of ordinary German people during the Third Reich, and the almost comically low-level guerrilla effort in this book is partly inspiring but mostly depressing. Maybe that’s why.
Did you ever watch Footloose and think “What the hell? This is not even remotely realistic. Who would ever care this much about dancing?” As it turns out, the answer to the question is “most of America, for most of its history.” For most of American history people have FREAKED OUT about dancing. It brings the wrong types of people together. Gives them the wrong thoughts. Leads to the wrong thing. Inspires the wrong kind of music. But everyone trying to make it in America did it anyway because DANCING IS FREEDOM.
I loved this book. We pride ourselves on being a free society, but Thaddeus Russell shows how, over the generations, we have devoted an absurd amount of effort to suffocating the individuality out of all the different groups that each helped make America what it is. It makes the term “melting pot” take on the most unfortunate connotation. Also, there is substantial criticism of the asshattery that was Prohibition, and who doesn’t like that?
This is the Leo Demidov trilogy, following a KGB agent/former agent through the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 60s. I thought Child 44 was excellent – plausible (I guess it should be, it’s loosely based on actual events), tightly written, fast-moving. A murder mystery in a state that actively tries to suppress even the notion of crime is a consistently entertaining conceit. The second and third books essentially became action movies in print form, but they were good ones at least. Good, fast, summer reads as you gear up to bum yourself out reading about Nazi resistance in the winter.
Although actually, you could also bum yourself out/scare yourself by reading Michael Lewis’ latest book (published late last year) in which he tackles the European sovereign debt crisis. Reading it now in the summer of 2012 gives it an almost creepy prescience, even though he’s not even predicting anything. He’s just chronicling nuggets like “Hey, Greek people cheat their own government out of taxes at every possible turn,” or “Look at all these empty houses in Ireland! They don’t even have enough people to fill them!” almost as a tourist would make a note of an interesting dish they tried abroad (“Oh you’re going to Athens? You must try the bribery.”). You’ll feel a lot better reading this if you have the means to acquire at least a modicum of hard currency.

Of Monsters and Men is currently just set on loop on my phone. I think you’ll enjoy them if you like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Also – they’re from Iceland! If you read Boomerang, you can learn about how historically bad Icelanders are at banking, and then listen to this and think “Not too bad at the music, though!”
I found JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound by happy accident on Spotify when I was looking for a Wilco song, and my initial reaction was “WTF is doing Wilco covers? Especially of ‘I am Trying to Break Your Heart’?” But then they turned out to be pretty great, and they’re also based here in Chicago. They’re playing a free show at Millennium Park on June 21 – come check them out with me.
M83 put this out late last year, but I’ve been delinquent since January, I’m going to include it. I’m also going to include it because if I could sign up for this album to be used as an actual soundtrack for my life that other people could hear, I would do it (Something dramatic and emotional happening? Cue up “Wait”. Whoa, we’re having a great night! Fire up “Midnight City”! I’m confidently attacking a huge day of work! I need “Steve McQueen”! I suppose it’s helpful when the album in question is a double album). I’d probably gain a lot of friends and we’d walk around like we were in a Wes Anderson movie a lot.

Favorite album of the year so far, but I’m totally in the tank for The Shins, so take it with an entire shaker of salt.

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