Wacky Packages

WACKY PACKAGES by the Topps Company, Inc. (Abrams)
This lovingly packaged, gorgeously designed collection of every Wacky Pack from Series 1-7 (1973-74) is an essential bookshelf item for any child of the Seventies who remembers a time when kid culture could satirize beer and cigarettes. The gags may often fall flat, but the nostalgia is crisp and sweet.

Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations...

Dan Piraro is undeniably one of today’s most talented newspaper cartoonists, and there’s much to enjoy in this overview, if you can get past the tiresome, unrelenting self-aggrandizement and vegan proselytizing. More art (there’s room on the pages) and less smug self-righteousness would’ve served this book better.

Can Rock & Roll Save the World?

CAN ROCK & ROLL SAVE THE WORLD? By Ian Shirley (SAF Publishing)
Entertaining, but somewhat slapdash history of the connection between rock and comics, this book is rife with errors and lazy writing (I don’t think “Marvel literally wet their pants” over “Magneto & Titanium Man”). Lots of well-chosen illustrations, but the book’s overall weak design doesn’t serve its subject well.


The Good Shepherd

The problem with movies that fictionalize history is that drama is diluted as we try to parse what’s real and what’s not. This ostensible history of the CIA is interesting, but ultimately falls into too many movie clich├ęs to feel as hefty as its star-studded pedigree would indicate.

The Bridge

A harrowing juxtaposition of beauty and sadness. Documentarian Eric Steel shot San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge for a year, capturing a shocking number of suicides. Interviews with friends and family flesh out the victims’ lives in this discomfiting (skirting the edge of exploitative) examination of human frailty.


Born Standing Up

BORN STANDING UP by Steve Martin (Scribner)
As someone who could recite Steve Martin’s comedy albums verbatim in junior high school, I found this deeply personal professional memoir both melancholy and inspiring. Martin’s self-proclaimed need for privacy comes across mostly in the book’s brevity, which leads the reader to wonder about the stories NOT told.


Screaming Females: What if Someone is Watching Their TV?

Screaming Females, WHAT IF SOMEONE IS WATCHING THEIR TV? (Don Giovanni Records)
I see hundreds of bands a year, and, at the risk of sounding Grampaesque, most of the kids today are hollow pastiches. New Jersey’s Screaming Females, led by the incendiary sparkplug brilliance of guitarist / vocalist Marissa are the real deal. This CD’s great, but live… they are transcendent.

Paul F. Tompkins: Impersonal

Paul F. Tompkins, IMPERSONAL (ASpecialThing Records)
One of the geniuses of the new millennium’s comedy renaissance (howzat for some hyperbole?), Tompkins’ full length debut CD is rife with ingredients that make comedy albums re-listenable: Lyrical delivery, a singular voice and a heaping helping of soul-lifting cynicism! OHMYGOD! Those balloons are GAUCHE!!!

John Adams

HBO’s adaptation of David McCullough’s humanizing portrait of our most overlooked founding father is not only stirring edu-tainment, it’s appetite-whetting! I want more Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin and David Morse as George Washington in their own mini-series! But I doubt Abigail Adams was that hot.

The Spectacular Spider-Man

After decades of animated series that never captured the character (for me) like the original ‘60s show, this smart, stylish update melds 40 years of Spidey history into a fun cartoon for aging fanboys, Ultimate Marvelites and kids alike. And it’s the best looking Marvel-toon in decades.