So here we are again, the sixth time All Men Are Liars has bid you a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, a super summer ... whence I commence my January prayer that I'll have a job come the new year.
My intern, Marlo Begsley, who's been putting together ideas for the blog each and every week, made the suggestion I do a "summer reading" post.
And because my brain is almost in neutral, I thought "what a champion idea".
Anyway, I was gonna have Marlo give suggestions as well - and he sent some beauties through - but then I realised I hadn't had enough time to check them all out, and didn't want to recommend stuff cold.
So - you're just gonna get old man suggestions for books, movies, music and TV shows and you can take note or ignore 'em as you wish - I'll be in Vietnam seeing in the New Year, so shall rise above your slights.
A Game of Thrones: I'd never been a big fan of fantasy until a new HBO show titled ... Game of Thrones landed on me like a wet, bear skin cloak earlier this year. I ate it up. It's The West Wing with swords and armour. I dug it so much I bought the books the TV show is based on and raced through more than 5000 pages of staggeringly complex and absorbing writing.
Some of these books are now on my list of the greatest novels I've ever read. They're a colossal achievement. The only downside to all of it is the written series is not complete. It has two books to come and author George R.R. Martin tends to take about 3-4 years to finish one, so I'm stuck in the ultimate cliffhanger until I turn 50!
Homeland: An absolute cracker of a new TV drama series starring an excellent Claire Danes as a CIA operative and a freakishly good Damian Lewis as a US marine suspected of becoming a terrorist. Due to air on Channel 10 next year, the series is just about to hit its final episode in the US, so you might be able to score a DVD set somewhere over the holidays or ... ahem ... utilise other methods.
History of the Modern Middle East: If you're interested in knowing if Danes and the folks at Showtime got it right in Homeland, this free lecture series from New York's Columbia University by Professor Richard Bulliet will fill in any gaps. Over more than 26 hours, Bulliet charts the history of the Middle East from "the 18th century until the present, examining the region ranging from Morocco to Iran and including the Ottoman Empire."
It's great stuff - quite dense in parts - but it slams home to you how little we hear about the realities of Islam in the West. It's a very pleasant eye opener, actually. You'll stop getting heart palpitations when you hear the term "Sharia law" and be more informed than 90 per cent of media commentators.
The Geography of World Cultures: Another free lecture series, this time from Stanford University, this is a broader overview than the one above and shows that "despite the supposedly homogenizing effects of globalization, people continue to be joined together and divided asunder by the languages they speak, the religions they follow, and the ethnic identities to which they belong."
Over 20 hours it examines every world region, "seeking to understand how places vary from each other with regard to the cultural attributes of their inhabitants." Dead set f---ing gold.
Kitty, Daisy and Lewis: This self titled album was released in 2008 and the group has since recorded a follow up, Smoking in Heaven, but I'm a bit slow when it comes to new music. My mum and I have just been loving this old school R & B and rock 'n' roll. It's great background music for a Sunday lunch.
The Next Decade: Written by New York Times bestselling author George Friedman (The Next 100 Years), this book is one of the most clear-eyed explanations of world geopolitics I've ever come across. Friedman is the founder and CEO of STRATFOR, the world's leading publisher of geopolitical intelligence, and is scarily across who did what to whom for about the last 200 years or so.
He peels back the percieved reasons politicians and governments have done what they did (his analysis of Presidents Bush and Reagan is facinating) and gives you a glimpse at how the world actually works. I kept a highlighter handy when reading this book. It's been reviewed as "what Machiavelli would do if in power for the next ten years".
The Black Company: So, after reading all the Game of Thrones books, I realised I quite enjoyed disappearing into a fantasy world at nights. I did a bit of searching on the internet and found that this series which follows a band of mercenaries called The Black Company - was very well regarded. It is a far cry from the reality of A Game of Thrones - it's fragmented, filled with sorcerers, but strangely contemporary. In fact, the first book really does feel evil in places and has had a far more viseceral effect on me than Game of Thrones. It's hard to explain.
Hello Darkness: Heard this novel by Sam de Brito is pretty good. Some reader reviews: "In Hello Darkness, Sam de Brito manages a great voice, whispering his story over a schooner. You relate, despise but love him all the same. Ned is the voice of a friend, lover and ex, sharing a story like you're sharing a pint in smoky pub. A narcissistic, self deprecating hero we have all f---ed, wanted to f---, even lived with. Sam's new novel is a MUST read."
Or ... "More than just a pastiche of The Lost Boys, Hello Darkness offers a bleak look inside the mind of a depressed Sydney journalist frozen in mediocrity. No one articulates the psyche of the Australian male like Sam de Brito, particularly when it comes to relationships and women. This sort of authenticity is up there with Bukowski."
Well, ahem ... haven't done that with the new novel, so forgive the plug. Seriously, if you like the blog, you'll love the book.
I wanted to recommend some more new music but realised I don't listen to albums anymore, just cherry-pick songs, so I went through my ipod and here's the most played for this year - music that has been bringing me and my little girl hours of joy. You've probably heard a lot of them - some are not very new - but you might come across a gem. I think they all are. See if you can track them down:
The Kooks, 'Young Folks' (my daughter's all time favourite song. She squeals and runs up and down on the spot until I pick her up and dance with her to this; Middle Brother, 'Middle Brother' (funny lyrics, great tune); Mystery Jets, 'Young Love' (I could marry Laura Marling just on the basis of her voice in this song); Rabbit, 'Connect the Dots' (very cute maths geek song, sorry it's the live version); Friska Viljor, 'If I die Now' (Just f---ing beautiful music); Joni Mitchell 'All I want' (stunning song from a master); Architecture in Helsinki, 'Contact High' (My Aussie song of the year - though it came out in 2011); Tindersticks, 'Can We Start Again?' (oldie but a goodie); The Mae Shi, 'Run to Your Grave' (Just love when they open up the electric guitar after the drum roll - baawooow. A punk band, pulling it back a little. Cool as shit clip, too); Friska Viljor, 'Wohlwill Strasse' (these guys are good, trust me); William the Contractor, 'Warehouseman' (Beautiful sad song about his dad - try find the studio verson); Van She, 'Kelly' (oldie but a goodie); Brendan Benson, 'What I'm Looking For' (Can't believe this guy isn't more famous - or maybe he is and I don't know); Generationals, 'Greenleaf' (Cute, moody); The Sunnyboys, 'I'm Shaking' (Great Aussie song); RL Burnside, 'Let My Baby Ride' (My daughter's other current fave - could be the fattest song ever recorded - turn it up loud on a big stereo and you'll hear what I mean); Midnight Oil, 'Stand in Line' (The Oils at their greatest); Money Mark, 'All the People' (Where the Beasties got their groove from?); MGMT, 'Boogie Down' (My fave MGMT song, and about the only one that didn't get flogged to death by radio - or maybe it did?); Siouxsie and the Banshees, 'Hong Kong Garden' (Cool version of a great song); Tony Joe White, 'Roosevelt and Ira Lee' (Basically about stealing chickens); Herman Dune, 'This Will Never Happen' (I sing this to my daughter in the car - "And I would never, ever, ever hurt you baby"), End of Fashion, 'Rough diamonds' (Another Aussie classic), Granddaddy, 'AM 180' (Another oldie, but my daughter digs the toy piano at the beginning).
So that's it.
In case you think I'm trying to be "all hip" - which I get accused of every time I list music - I also listen to tons of Cold Chisel, Elton John, Bobby Darrin, Cat Stevens, AC/DC, Neil Diamond, Bowie, Captain & Tenille, Louis Prima, Brian Ferry and yeah, Rod Stewart on occasion.
Life's like a box of chocolates.
Anyways, have a great holiday and stay safe. All Men Are Liars will be back Tuesday, January 17.