26 March 2010

Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs

This was the March book club book, suggested by the other Amanda:

This book is a collection of 18 essays where each pop culture topic was hit on during the sleepy, unwinding moments before Chuck fell asleep. Interesting premise, I'd say. I hadn't read a collection of essays before, at least not willingly, so that caught my attention. I liked being able to jump around or skip an essay if it didn't really appeal.

Here is the full list of essays (from Wikipedia) (the ones in bold are my favorites):

  • 1. This Is Emo: Klosterman recounts "fake love" we are conditioned to pursue, and the false, unbalanced nature of When Harry Met Sally.
  • 2. Billy Sim: Klosterman describes his experience with the reality-mimicking videogame The Simsand how The Sims illustrates that "even eternally free people are enslaved by the process of living."
  • 3. What Happens When People Stop Being Polite: The impacts of MTV's The Real World and how it led to the development of one-dimensional personalities.
  • 4. Every Dog Must Have His Every Day, Every Drunk Must Have His Drink: An ode to Billy Joel, particularly the universality of his album Glass Houses.
  • 5. Appetite for Replication: Klosterman interviews and spends a few days with the members of aGuns N' Roses tribute band, "Paradise City," and outlines the significance of tribute bands.
  • 6. Ten Seconds to Love: An analysis of how American culture is upset with the unrealistic images of success it has created, as stemming from a discussion of the Pamela-Tommy sex tape.
  • 7. George Will vs. Nick Hornby: A rant against soccer (particularly among youth), claiming it supports outcast culture.
  • 8. 33: Klosterman explains how the 1980's rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics symbolizes all rivalries in life, including politics, religion, and race.
  • 9. Porn: An explanation of how the Internet has proliferated the porn industry, as per the need of the presence of the amateur and celebrity in our lives.
  • 10. The Lady or the Tiger: A brief history of the cereal industry, and how Kelloggs was begun as a religious company, but now is a microcosm for coolness. The "cocoa puffs" in the title comes from this essay.
  • 11. Being Zack Morris: An analysis of Saved by the Bell and how "important things are inevitably cliché."
  • 12. Sulking with Lisa Loeb on the Ice Planet Hoth: Why Star Wars is so overrated, and how it has come to represent basic morality.
  • 13. The Awe-Inspiring Beauty of Tom Cruise's Shattered, Troll-like Face: A discussion of the question "What is reality?" as answered by movies such as Vanilla SkyThe MatrixMemento, andWaking Life.
  • 14. Toby over Moby: How the Dixie Chicks are the new Van Halen, as they are one of the only pop bands with musical quality, and how Van Halen's teenage boys have been replaced by the Dixie Chicks' teenage girls. Also how music taste is used to gauge coolness, and those who ignorantly say they like all kinds "except country" only say so to appear cool.
  • 15. This is Zodiac Speaking: A description of three people Klosterman has interviewed who have known or met serial killers, and an exploration of "What does it mean to know a serial killer?"
  • 16. All I Know Is What I Read in the Papers: Most of the media's bias is accidental, and stories are mainly developed by circumstance and by the interviewee who calls the journalist back first. Also how sports reporters hate sports, and how newspapers are designed for those who cannot read.
  • 17. I, Rock Chump: Klosterman narrates his visit to the 2002 Pop Music Studies Conference by the Experience Music Project, and how it was largely an experience without rock and roll.
  • 18. How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found: A commentary on the Left Behind Series and the lifestyle of Evangelical Christians. The chapter title refers to the book How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Doug Richmond.

I'm not going to discuss each of my favorite essays, but I will say this: if you like reading Bill Bryson, I recommend this book. Chuck has that same conversational tone and approach in his writing. On the flip side, if you liked this book, I recommend reading Bill Bryson (conversational tone stories about his travels; I read the book he wrote about his time in Australia).

My all time favorite part of the book was the interlude with the 23 questions he asks people in order to determine if he can really love them. How interesting a method to determine if you can love someone! Here is a sample question:

Question 18: You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2K. The second option is ten minutes on the moon. Which option do you select?

That gives you an idea of the sort of questions Chuck asks. Some of them I had quick answers to; others I had to think about; still others I'm undecided about. For Question 18, however, I'd take the first option to see Europe! Visiting the moon would be out of this world (ha, get it?), but for ten minutes? Nah, I'd rather 524,160 minutes in Europe with a total of $24K to spend while there. I've always wanted to go to Europe. I've never had that same desire to visit the moon. I enjoy gazing at the moon in the night sky. I'd enjoy gazing at the moon in the night sky from Europe, too.

Wikipedia Article
Official Publisher Page


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