Hunter S. Thompson Motivational Posters

February 25th, 2009 at 10:03 am

For all of us who have been reading newspapers, periodicals, and occasionally overhearing the hyenas snarling on cable news lately, we can all use a little encouragement and motivation.

But anyone with an iota of common decency and respect absolutely loathes those cheesy motivational posters haphazardly plastered in the workplace, schools, and other vacuous institutions of stunted imagination.

So the drunks over at Slosh Spot have re-imagined them in the most subversive and amusing way possible: by integrating the unique life and wisdom of Hunter S. Thompson.

Faith Hunter S. Thompson Motivational Poster

Are you wittier and wiseier than the Good Doc?

Feel free to make your own.

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

February 13th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

My, my.

Exploring the themes manifested from 9/11, marital strain, and cricket (yes cricket), Joseph O’Neill has written a damn fine story.

Of course, isolating these basic elements is obtuse and uninformative. What makes Netherland great, which it is, is what makes every great novel great: the writing.

The writing is simple and elegant. Not simple in a choppy Hemingway way, but simple and elegant in an elegant Kundera way. The diction of Netherland is pitch perfect. Every single word hums with the same tone, as if each letter were vibrations from the same tuning fork banged against O’Neil’s big brainy head.

But speaking of Hemingway, though Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times, assessed Netherland as having “echoes of the The Great Gatsby,” I found Netherland to be highly reminiscent of the The Sun Also Rises. Post-WWI disillusionment gives way to post-9/11 malaise and bafflement.

But back to the writing. O’Neill gives us weather, mere frozen precipitation, as this: “I was torn between a ridiculous loathing of this obdurate wintry ectoplasm and an equally ridiculous tenderness stimulated by a solid’s battle against the forces of liquefaction.”

Now, I read passages such as that and let it roll around in my frontal lobe like a piece of caramel. Don’t you read something like that in a novel and just think, “There is something going on here?”

Netherland is also full of great characters. By great I do not mean that they seem real. They don’t. If you want “real” people, make friends and talk to your family, don’t read a novel. But the characters in Netherland are fully realized, highly imagined, interesting people. But because they’re in a novel they are doing things and serving functions and reinforcing themes, so that’s not real real. That’s novel real. But man, is it good.

Netherland also contains one of the funniest, most telling and adage-worthy non sequiters that I’ve heard in a while:

“There’s a limit to what Americans understand. The limit is cricket.”

Jolly good.

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

February 9th, 2009 at 10:19 am

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston


This book is something else.

This is my kind of Pleasure Reading.

Not in recent memory can I recall a book that enthralled and engaged me more. And it’s about plants.


Not just any plants, of course, but Sequoia sempervirens, coast redwoods, the largest and tallest organisms ever. Ever.

As excited as I got about these gigantic beasts and the lichens, cyanobacteria, fungus, plants, and animals they support within their dense, unexplored canopies, what was really captivating about The Wild Trees was the crazy fucks who climb them. Now, these trees are 360-370 feet tall with branches not extending from them until 150 or 200 feet above the ground.

“I’ve been skateboarding practically all my life. But I can’t do it forever. So I decided to study epiphytes in trees,” is how one such crazy climber puts it.

An epiphyte is of course a plant that grows on another plant, typically on the branches of a tree, without parasitizing it. The roots of an epiphyte do not touch the ground.

And if epiphytes don’t tickle your pickle, the thought of climbing and exploring these incredible trees will; living in them, knowing them, making love in them.

It’s quite a story. A story told by Richard Preston with clear, affectionate prose. It’s a marvelous story, one that reminds me of tales such as The Happiest Man in the World.

Because though Thoreau said that the majority of man lead lives of quiet desperation, again and again I read books like The Wild Trees that illuminate a thriving and fascinating world of “normal” people participating in magnificent feats of passionate, daring adventure.

Thoreau be damned.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

February 3rd, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Oh, Malcolm Gladwell, when will you cease to amaze us with your slick volumes of incisive insight?

Following the success of The Tipping Point and Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, proud possessor of the publishing industry’s cheeriest surname, provides yet another installment in the genre he has pioneered; a genre intent on providing startling yet satisfying solutions to the world’s most vexing quandaries.

In Outliers, Gladwell takes up the predicament of success. Sure, he touches on Bill Gates Success and Beatles Success, but he also touches on Asian Math Test Success and Jewish Lawyer Success.

And he talks about perplexing realities like how a culture’s inherent modes of communication can make for poor piloting.

Outliers is a good read. Not a great read but a quick read. One that could have easily, and maybe preferably, been a long essay in The New Yorker. But that means you have no excuse not to read it. Other than its $27.95 price tag of course.

In the years to come, I am convinced that Gladwell’s books will be packaged, published, and sold together as a Collected Work. Which is great, because that’s already how it should be consumed. There are cohesive, unifying themes to Gladwell’s work, each book a mere chapter in a longer arc that is becoming his life work. But once Gladwell’s work is packaged together as I predict, we will take it for granted. We may forget how much work went into interviewing and probing all the subjects of Gladwell’s books.

Because even though I chide Gladwell & co. for charging $27.95 for such a slender book, there is no fat. And I mean none. This is a refined, smooth work from a superb journalist clearly at the height of his powers: ‘Here’s this. Here’s that. Did you notice this? What about that? And let me tell you about something else. Isn’t that interesting? See how that all came together and explained everything? Aren’t I clever? Moving on.’

Gladwell has emerged as an outlier in his own right by being an extraordinary journalist, by going where no one else is, by seeing what no one else is, and asking what no one else is.

And via this luck, determination, hard work, and I’m sure a myriad of his own special opportunities, Gladwell keeps writing important books. I don’t think anyone will be reading Outliers in 6 months, much less 5 years, (excepting the Complete Works Compendium), because Gladwell strives at bringing some of the modern world’s most potent and often unacknowledged forces to light. Gladwell is a man of his times and I honestly believe he wants his work to be a force for improving the world:

“To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.”