Latest Blog Posts

by Rodger Jacobs

17 Sep 2009

Putting aside obvious selections like Charles R. Jackson’s The Lost Weekend, Malcolm Lowry’s harrowing Under the Volcano, or essentially anything written by Charles Bukowski, we present here a list of nine indispensible rye-saturated ruminations on the life of the rummy. Do not show up at your next AA meeting with any of these titles in your hip pocket because the vapors wafting from the pages will send everyone in the room falling off the wagon ... hard. 

The Assault on Tony’s by John O’Brien
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ben Sanderson drinks himself into the tomb in O’Brien’s debut novel, Leaving Las Vegas, but in this posthumous release from 1996, five hopeless booze hounds holed up in a bar during an apocalyptic riot show just what a hapless wimp ol’ Ben was. This startling novel is a fascinating blend of Eugene O’Neill’s stark drama The Iceman Cometh and a Twilight Zone episode that could scare anyone straight into sobriety.

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac
Burnt out by the demands of fame and the unwanted King of the Beatnicks appellation, Jack Kerouac takes refuge in the coastal cabin of publisher and City Lights Books owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti (presented here as Lorenz Monsanto) in Big Sur, California. Jack thinks he can kick the sauce. Jack thinks twice about that fanciful notion when the DTs come-a-callin’ in full, living color. This is the book that Stephen King thought he was writing with The Shining.

John Barleycorn by Jack London
You know that quaint concept about alcoholics in denial? Jack wrote 300 pages on the topic in 1913 before the term was ever coined. “You have shown yourself no alcoholic,” Jack’s dutiful wife Charmian proclaims in the opening chapter, “no dipsomaniac, but merely an habitual drinker, one who has made John Barleycorn’s acquaintance by rubbing shoulders with him. Write it up and call it Alcoholic Memoirs.”  And he did; a sometimes-rollicking Barbary Coast drinking history written by a man who denies having a drinking problem. The concept alone is more humorous and hypocritical than Glenn Beck writing a book on civility in public discourse. 

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
Dragged into and destroyed by the sordidness of the pathetic lives he is brought into contact with through his daily advice column, a newspaper reporter goes off the deep end and spends a lot of time at Delahanty’s speakeasy plotting his martyrdom after he has made the required stop at the seven Stations of the Cross. Much has been made over the decades about the obvious and sometimes over-the-top Christ symbolism in West’s outstanding novella but very few extracts have been composed around the fact that most of the book’s events unfold either in an alcoholic stupor or through the head-crushing punishment of a hangover.

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
In this quaint novel of Monterey, the Nobel Prize winning author writes of the close-knit community of paisanos, “a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican, and assorted Caucasian bloods ... that lived in an uphill district above the town called Tortilla Flat” ... of course, Danny and his fellow paisanos can rarely actually see the town below because their vision is blurred by the gallons of deep red wine they are perpetually scheming to procure. A close cousin to another booze-soaked Steinbeck novella, Cannery Row, but infused with a larger zest for life.

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
“The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk ...” So begins Chandler’s sixth Philip Marlowe novel and, without a doubt, not only the best book in the series that forever cemented the literary concept of the hard-boiled LA detective but perhaps one of the best American novels of the 20th Century. Chandler’s two main clients in this bleak and breathtaking noir adventure are hopeless lushes: the wife murderer Terry Lennox and the Malcolm Lowry-like novelist Roger Wade who falls victim to blackmail and a quack doctor with a dry-out clinic. Marlowe’s drinking looks positively abstentious when stood up next to these guys.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The last novel Fitzgerald would see published in his lifetime is also the only novel in which he honestly grapples with the ghosts of booze land. Set in Europe during the interwar years, Scott tells the story of brilliant American psychologist Dick Diver and his wealthy and emotionally unstable wife, Nicole (sound like a particular couple we know?). There are lover’s quarrels, quaint expatriate celebrations throughout the European continent, and enough free-flowing champagne in the first chapter alone to give anyone a contact buzz. More mature and troubling than The Great Gatsby but unfocused at times due to the fact that Fitzgerald was dipping his own beak quite a bit during construction of the complex novel.

Northline by Willy Vlautin
Young Allison Johnson flees Las Vegas and her abusive skinhead boyfriend for a better life in Reno. Ha! Good luck with that, Allison, what with your tendency toward blackout drinking binges and those long conversations you have with your imaginary best friend, film star Paul Newman. A stark, powerful, and touching contemporary novel about the sometimes elusive search for self-belief in a physical landscape as desolate as the inner lives of Vlautin’s well-rendered and believable characters.

The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer by Tom Dardis
Of the seven native-born Americans awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, English prof Dardis writes in the introduction to this 1989 work, five were alcoholic. Dardis argues convincingly that the romantic concept of the alcoholic writer is a uniquely American contrivance and proves it through an examination of the drinking lives of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, and O’Neill—the latter being the only writer in the group whose creativity surged when he finally gave up the bottle.

by Katharine Wray

17 Sep 2009

A clip of the inception of “Night Man/Day Man” in honor of tonight’s season premier of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at 10pm on FX. Enjoy.

by PopMatters Staff

17 Sep 2009

Everybody’s Talking, Nobody’s Listening!
Releasing: 24 November (US)

01 Intro
02 Low Blow
03 The TakeOver (feat. MC Dynamite)
04 Marmite
05 Riot Powder Intro (feat. Rod Azlan)
06 Riot Powder
07 Lon-Don City (feat. Uncle Sam)
08 The Terminator
09 Rat-A-Tat-Tat (feat. MC Dynamite)
10 Victoria’s Secret (feat. D1)
11 I Beat My Robot
12 Disco Jaws (feat. Beezy)
13 Back To ‘93

“The TakeOver” (feat. MC Dynamite) [MP3]

by Rob Horning

17 Sep 2009

Vox EU posted a study by Neil Gandal about the relationship of obesity to price sensitivity.

Is increasing obesity due to changes in relative food prices? High-energy density foods are less expensive per calorie than fresh fruits and vegetables. Using data from Israel, this column shows that price sensitivity has a significant impact on obesity. In fact, price sensitivity may be more crucial than income…. We find that women who stated that price was not important at all when purchasing food products had a BMI 1.3 units below those who stated that price was “very important.” A reduction of 1.3 units in the BMI for all obese women would move approximately 25% of women who are in the “obese” category to the “overweight” category.

In other words, according to this study, people who are cost-conscious while buying food tend to be fatter, even after controlling for income. (So perhaps commentators should be careful about reflexively linking poor and fat together; fat and cheap is the proper knee-jerk insult combo.) It seems to suggest by implication, too, that being poor doesn’t necessarily make you more cost-conscious about food, which seems a bit hard to believe. Perhaps you don’t self-report as “cost-conscious” when you can’t choose to spend more on food even if you wanted to.

Eating badly can seem like an ignorant thing to do, and conservative types tend to assume that the poor are poor because they are ignorant as well. So it seems to make ideological sense to them that the poor make bad eating choices out of the same supposed myopic ignorance that has made them “choose” poverty. They aren’t forced by straitened circumstances to eat unhealthy food; they choose it. The study could be distorted to support that view. But the study also would seem to suggest that some of the wisdom and economic common sense that the poor are sometimes presumed to lack—being more rational in the marketplace, finding good deals, being thrifty, etc. (the imprudence that allegedly keeps them poor)—is precisely what’s correlated with the unhealthy eating, that bargain hunting and obesity stem from the same miser pathology. What’s clear is that the rationale of the market wreaks havoc on whatever our body might otherwise tell us about what we need nutritionally. We make market-based decisions about what body needs, letting the market dictate those needs, to our body’s detriment.

The context for the study is the proposition of taxes on sugar drinks. Gandal notes that “Drewnowski and Barratt-Fornell (2004) conducted a simple “experiment” in a Seattle supermarket and found that, per calorie, carrots cost virtually five times more than cookies or potato chips, and orange juice costs virtually five times as much as soft drinks.” One of the reasons for this, as Michael Pollan has argued and as Gandal notes, is U.S. agricultural policy:

Between 1985 and 2000, fruit and vegetable prices in the US increased by about 40%, while the price of soft drinks dropped by 23%. These seem like large changes in relative prices. According to Pollan, the change in relative prices is in large part due to the US farm bill, which provides generous subsidies for corn and soy, which are prime ingredients in high-density “processed food.”

The Economist‘s Free Exchange blogger puts the findings in perspective and makes a good point: the U.S. should take on the irrational agri-subsidies first before levying nanny-ish taxes on unhealthful consumer behavior.

by Katharine Wray

17 Sep 2009

Robin Guthrie
Releasing: 28 September

01 Some Sort of Paradise
02 Sparkle
03 Delight
04 Close My Eyes And Burn
05 Search Among The Flowers
06 Mission Dolores
07 Autochromes
08 The Girl With The Little Wings
09 Waiting By The Carousel
10 Little Big Fish

Robin Guthrie

Sparkle [MP3]


//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

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