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Home » Culture and Criticism

Vacation reading list

Submitted by on March 14, 2008 – 10:50 AM31 Comments

I’m out of town for a few days; while I’m gone, I’ll be finishing Posner’s Case Closed, and starting I Love You, Beth Cooper and that book on the TV-news wars Kim lent me months ago.

While I’m gone, no new updates or comment approvals, but to pass the time, ┬áconsider

1. Reading Eric Deggans. Along with Sepinwall, Mo Ryan, and a few others, Deggans is must-read crit for me; while he can and does crack on TV, he’s not afraid to take it seriously, either. He was one of my favorite TV beat writers to do an interview with, too. This piece is more about politics but gives you a good idea of what he’s about.

2. Watching The King Of Kong. I can’t believe this didn’t get nominated for an Academy Award for Best Doc; I hope it’s because of some rules-of-entry reverse loophole, and not because it wasn’t considered serious enough subject matter (it’s about two guys trying to beat the scoring record in old-school arcade Donkey Kong). But the movie is everything I love about good documentaries: a good story, well crafted, with a handful of memorable characters (and, in this case, memorable hair — check out the extras, where Billy Mitchell’s stepdaughter is talking about the carcinogenic amounts of hairspray he uses). The friend of the “bad guy” who has a change of heart; the dedicated ref; the impatient wife; the kid screaming for toilet paper…you couldn’t make that shit up. Not to take anything away from more downbeat documentaries — Steve James’s work is really quite depressing in spots, but he’s a master of the form — but one like this, that does what it sets out to do so well, should have been recognized by the Academy.

3. Seeing if you could pass 8th-grade science. I got an 84%, which is better than I’d expected to do, and about commensurate with my science grades back in the day.




  • Tisha_ says:

    Good grief! I only got 42% on the science quiz. Damn.

  • JennB says:

    I read “I Love You, Beth Cooper” last summer and liked it. It’s very fun and light, and it moves pretty quickly.

  • Beth Cooper is a lot of fun, but I’d bring a third book if I were you; you’ll be done with it in, like, 45 minutes.

  • carolyn says:

    jiminy crickets…i got a 50%….i didn’t realize i was so dumb.

  • Karen says:

    To my great astonishment, I got 80% on the science test, which is considerably better than I would have done in 8th grade. I guess there’s something to be said for life experience!

  • Cindi in CO says:

    Crap. I got 76% on the science test. That’s a C.

    My parents would’ve killed me.

  • Linda says:

    HA! That is exactly what I was going to say about Beth Cooper (what Alan said). There’s no such thing as “starting” that book.

  • Courtney says:

    Hmmm. I got 84% on the science quiz too.

  • lah says:

    I also got 84%. Feeling a little stupid – I know that I used to know more of that stuff.

  • Carl Coryell-Martin says:

    I was annoyed by the implicit assumptions and simplifications implied in the questions that were necessary to to answer the questions ‘correctly’.

    Asexual reproduction can lead to genetic differences as a result of mutations or certain kinds of viruses that insert their genetic material into the host organisms. I’d define fruit as seed distribution mechanisms designed to attract things to eat them. Tides in the ocean are controlled by the moon, sun and to a much lesser degree all the other masses in the solar system.


  • Jess says:

    That Posner book is good stuff. I had to read it for a history class in college. It seemed pretty balanced and objective.

  • Christina says:

    I got a 96% on the science test. But that’s a good thing, since I’m currently studying to teach high school math and physics. Coincidentally, I got my results back from my official test today, too. 97%.

  • Susanna says:

    Forget the 8th grade science quiz – find out whether you’re prepared for the zombie invasion! Or how much your corpse is worth! Lots of fun quizzes on that site.

  • Sammie says:

    Ha! I got 100% on the science quiz, and I spent the majority of my science classes asleep on my desk.

    I had to guess a couple though.

  • solaana says:

    69%. Which is, I believe, the same grade I got in 9th grade, because I discovered boys that year (late bloomer).

    In other news, yes yes yes on the King of Kong. Evil dude actually beat Steve Wiebe’s score last year? After the movie was released anyway, and Steve was in Vegas to try and beat the new score again but didn’t. That movie was awesome though.

  • Trip says:

    I haven’t seen The King of Kong, but I have to wonder if one of the reasons it didn’t get more Oscar consideration is that the director wildly manipulated what actually happened in order to get the story he wanted (Google the movie title plus “inaccuracy” to get a lot more on this). It seems like he went far beyond typical documentary poetic license and just edited the footage to make his own chain of events.

    I’m sure it’s entertaining, and I hope to see it at some point, but given everything I’ve heard, I doubt I’ll have much respect for it as a film.

  • Meghan says:

    I got an 84% too. I knew a couple answers and second-guessed, only to get them wrong. I’m impressed with my middle school science department, but only for this moment in time.

    And now it’s over.

  • DensityDuck says:

    I’m not so sure about that test. I had one answer wrong (I kept notes so I’d know what I picked) and it still gave me an 88%…

  • Jena says:

    Ahh – 92%! I knew that being an engineer would be good for something. And I guess that means the recaps I consume over at TWOP haven’t overwritten all of my book-learnin’ quite yet.

  • Grace says:

    I also pulled 84% on the science quiz; at least I haven’t forgotten too much of what I used to know.

    I would be afraid to take a mathematics quiz of any type – while I did well at geometry, algebra and trigonometry were a struggle in high school; fortunately I managed to test out of taking any math classes in college.

  • jive turkey says:

    DUDE: The King of Kong – I KNOW!!! It’s brilliant, and I’m so disappointed for everyone involved that it didn’t get a nomination. I dare anyone to watch it and not get completely caught up in the story. It’s one of those wonderful documentaries where real life is ten million times more captivating than fiction.

  • Chip says:

    57% on the science quiz, which seems about right…

  • Kristen says:

    I saw King of Kong last weekend with my SO. Now, I bet I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever played Donkey Kong, and I got completely wrapped up in the movie. Definitely worth a watch.

  • JR says:

    Oh, man! I took that science quiz and scored in the 70s, which wouldn’t be too embarassing, except for the fact that I am… an actual scientist. With a PhD and everything! And I had no idea what the most common element in the atmosphere is. Traumatic!

  • smmoe1997 says:

    I got a 69%, just barely passing! Which when I reflect back is about how I did in science back in the day. So not my subject.

    Please post your review of the news wars book (the name is escaping me) but I am interested in your opinion. Have you read The Big Picture by Edward Jay Epstein ( I found that one fascinating!

  • Margaret in CO says:

    84% here too.
    Wo. Actual science fact retentiion – who knew I had THAT in my skillset? Yay!

  • Erica says:

    Have you seen this yet?
    Reminds me of the good old days of the GBC.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    “Asexual reproduction can lead to genetic differences as a result of mutations or certain kinds of viruses that insert their genetic material into the host organisms.”

    I’m not sure that’s a hair an eighth-grade science teacher would have split, except for extra credit. Then again, my own eighth-grade science unit was entirely geology and earth science, and I think I saw exactly one question that was something we actually covered that year (the igneous rock one), so your mileage may vary.

  • Amanda says:

    Woohoo! 100%! I was definitely guessing on a couple, though, and I even have a chem PhD. I certainly don’t think I would have gotten them all in 8th grade!

    Is it wrong that I feel like going for a post-exam beer now? Some habits really do die hard.

  • Ryan says:

    I Love You Beth Cooper is fun. It’s like Sixteen Candles in book form. I liked the nominated documentaries, as well as a couple others, more than King of Kong, but it’s fun too.

  • Jill says:

    Eh, I got 80 percent on the science test. I used to get A’s back in the day, but it’s been awhile. And the only science classes I took in college were the wimpy ones aimed at liberal arts majors, like Physics of Light and Color.

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