Media I Have Recently Consumed

Could that title sound less enticing? A quick rundown of stuff I’ve seen, read, heard or otherwise ingested.

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter – I’m not an avid reader of high-brow game criticism, but Tom Bissell’s book is a thoughtful exploration of the philosophy, art and design of video games. It’s also one intellectual’s struggle to reconcile his love of the form with its many, er, infantile aspects. It’s full of insights, and if you live with a non-gamer, I’d offer it to them to explain your hobby.

Rework – A manifesto-style business book from the smart guys at 37Signals. It’s long on illustrations and pat advice, and short on evidence and style. I was familiar with the books’ lessons-stay small, eschew meetings, planning is guessing and so forth–because at Capulet we’ve reached the same conclusions. Others might realize more value from the book, but I was underwhelmed.

The Passage – A nearly-800 page dystopian vampire/zombie tale of adventure set in the future by Justin Cronin. I’d compare this book to early Stephen King–readable, entertaining, schlocky in places and some really terrible metaphors. There are some terrific set pieces in the book, which Ridley Scott may bring to life, as he owns the film rights.

The American – Don’t be deceived by the trailer. This is an austere movie, unencumbered by Hollywood pacing and utterly uncharmed by the Italian countryside where it’s set. In its plotting and slowness, it feels very like a movie from another era. But, thanks to George Clooney’s glowering presence, I really enjoyed it. When I left the busy cinema, however, I mostly heard complaints about the movie’s sedate pace.

A Life in the Theatre – I caught a preview of this Fringe-style production at the Vancouver Playhouse. It’s set in this charmingly weird room with a blue, peaked ceiling in the basement of the theatre. Which is appropriate, actually, as it’s David Mamet’s treatise on acting and the life of the actor. It’s essentially art about art, which never excites me, but if you have a love of the stage, then you could do worse than this show. Hurry, though, as it closes this Sunday.


  1. I liked your comment on The American. I have not seen it, but want to. Others in the theatre complaining reminds me of seeing Clooney in Solaris years ago, and being awed by the subtle dark moody tone the film had achieved, only to hear “That Sucked!” from the people behind me once the credits rolled.

    Some films move at a slower pace, and sometimes I’m okay with that. But I have to admit, there are Clooney movies that look much better in the trailers and end up as largely forgettable films. Michael Clayton and Syriana both come to mind.

    1. I think “Solaris” is an apt comparison–another moody, slow-moving piece.

      I have fond memories of “Syriana”, but I can’t specifically say why.

  2. I also liked “The American,” but by the end, it does make you wonder whether, if the Swede at the beginning had been successful, then everyone wouldn’t have been better off. Maybe that was the point.

    Another recent film that misleads people with its advertising is “The Switch,” which is made to look like a generic Jennifer Aniston rom-com, when it’s really a portrait of a fairly weird neurotic guy by Jason Bateman, even if the basic framework is the same.

    Both movies are good, but it seems their marketing is designed to trick viewers into seeing them, which is never a good approach.

  3. Never heard of Extra Lives, but I’ll check it out now. I haven’t read Rework yet but I’ve heard similar reviews of it. I’ll probably read it anyway, if only because it’s a short read, but on the other hand, do I need to re-hear advice I already know? Is reading what you already know some kind of affirmation that you’re on a good career-or-otherwise path?Hmm…I feel a blog post coming on.

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