Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories to enjoy with your Friday morning coffee.

  1. Virtual reality so good Disney should just buy the whole company.
  2. The politicization of everything.
  3. The “Simpsons” jokes that never quite made it (and a few that barely did).
  4. Behind the scenes at Tokyo’s lost and found center.
  5. A few words to the graduates from David Sedaris.
  6. EU copyright proposal has free speech advocates worried.
  7. Netflix is hiring everybody in and out of Hollywood to make more TV shows than any network ever has. And it already knows which ones you’ll like. Related: How Netflix is trying to make sure its shows don’t get lost.
  8. An extensive investigation of the Grenfell Tower fire.
  9. Does musical paralysis set in at 28?
  10. A list of everything Anthony Bourdain hated.
  11. The wounds of the drone warrior.

Review: The Art of Map Illustration

Four artists share their techniques for mapmaking as well as samples of their work in The Art of Map Illustration. The book is full of beautiful illustrations by each of the artists, who employ a variety of media including pen, ink, watercolor and digital.

There are a number of map-making tips spread throughout the book, but it seems more time is spent describing how to illustrate map embellishments such as trees and buildings. Each of the artists share an almost whimsical style (as seen on the cover) with cartoonish illustrations and that probably accounts for the number of pages devoted to creating and placing those decorative details.

If the style suits you, the The Art of Map Illustration (Quarto Publishing Group, digital galley) is full of samples and would be a good book to reference for inspiration. Although the artists use a variety of media, the book feels a little repetitive because of the similar illustration styles.

Very short reviews of books

David Itzkoff’s compassionate biography of Robin Williams stands out among the books I read in May. David Sedaris’ wickedly humorous collection of essays is also worth picking up.

Robin: This intimate biography of Robin Williams tells the story of the meteoric rise, frenetic life and the sad final days of the comedian.(5/5 stars.) Read my full review.

Calypso: David Sedaris deftly handles a variety of topics including  middle age, shopping, gay marriage, language and family tragedy in this achingly funny book. (5/5 stars.) Read my full review.

The Shepherd’s Hut: A crisp story of survival, friendship and the search for peace in a brutal Australian landscape. (4/5 stars.) Read my full review.

Fear the Sky: A  covert team of scientists and soldiers work to undermine the advance team of an alien armada on the way to Earth in this fast-paced sci-fi novel.  (4/5 stars.)

The Paris Wife: Historical fiction written from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. Good for Hemingway fans, but so-so pacing. (4/5 stars.)

The Little Paris Bookshop: This love story following a bookseller calling himself the literary apothecary was a little pretentious for my taste. (3/5 stars.)

Warlight: In the aftermath of WWII 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister are left in the care of a mysterious man they nickname The Moth and his possibly criminal cohorts. An opaque novel that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. (2/5 stars.) Read my full review.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories from the week to enjoy wit your morning coffee.

  1. Ex-clown is hard to hide on a resumé.
  2. Should we stop looking for intelligent life?
  3. Anger over tourists swarming hot spots sparks backlash.
  4. How I caused California’s housing crisis.
  5. The major mobile providers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — are selling your location information.
  6. How the Internet killed the critic.
  7. A bank glitch gave a down-on-his-luck Australian man access to unlimited funds. Then he did exactly what you think he did with it.
  8. Ethiopia is now Africa’s fastest growing economy.
  9. The trouble with hating Ernest Hemingway.

Review: The Shepherd’s Hut

Jaxie Claxton lives a miserable life in rural Australia, stuck with a savage father he hates. Then one day a violent accident leaves him with no choice but to pack what he can carry and strike out on foot as a fugitive.

Walking across barren western Australia with a rifle and a water jug, he eventually runs into a fellow outcast living in a shepherd’s hut. In this remote and deadly landscape Claxton forms an uncomfortable bond with this man, who has his own secrets to keep and on whom he becomes dependent.

The Shepherd’s Hut (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, digital galley) by Tim Winton is a short and crisp story of survival, friendship and the search for peace in a brutal world. Winton’s masterful use of language, peppered with Australian colloquialisms, made this novel a pleasure to read.

Review: Calypso

David Sedaris has mastered the ability to be dark, charming and funny at the same time. His latest collection of essays, Calypso, revolves around gatherings at his North Carolina beach house, the Sea Section. Sedaris deftly handles a variety of topics including  middle age, shopping, gay marriage, language and family tragedy.

It’s hard to go more than a couple of pages without belting out a laugh at some outrageous situation in which Sedaris has gotten involved. And he is capable of being shocking, as with a recurring tale that involves a homely snapping turtle and a tumor Sedaris needs removed

Sedaris’ unique powers of observation and his intimate descriptions of  human interactions are absorbing. This is among his best books and fans will want to get hold of a copy. Anyone new to Sedaris’ writing will find Calypso (Little, Brown and Company, digital galley) a fine introduction to his achingly funny stories.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories from the week to enjoy with your morning coffee.

  1. The all-American bank heist.
  2. Why the dancing makes ‘This Is America’ so uncomfortable to watch.
  3. Apple’s Jonathan Ive talks watches for the very first time.
  4. Eight years after it finished, why is Lost being reappraised?

If you’re looking for a good book, David Itzkoff’s compassionate biography of Robin Williams —  titled simply Robin — was released Tuesday. Here’s a review.

Review: Robin

An intimate new biography of Robin Williams tells the story of the meteoric rise, frenetic life and the sad final days of the comedian. In Robin, New York Times writer David Itzkoff gives us a look at the creativity that fueled Williams’ seemingly spontaneous and endless comedic riffs. But he also tells of Williams’ substance abuse, repeated infidelities, failed marriages and a manic anxiety over the quality of his performances.

Itkoff recounts stories of Williams’ childhood, failed attempts at college, training at Juilliard and his early years on stand up comedy stages where he stood out among his peers. Robin (Henry Holt & Company, digital galley) is well-researched and full of stories from family, friends and fellow comedians that cover both the highlights and the low lights of Williams’ long career.

The story of Williams health decline and death is handled compassionately as Itzkoff tells of the depression, paranoia and confusion that Williams suffered from as a result of Lewy Bodies Dementia. And although Itkoff tries to give us a full measure of the man, even Williams’ closest friends acknowledge he never revealed all of himself to anyone. In Robin we may get the best look possible at comedic genius whose performances we know so well.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories from the week to enjoy with your morning coffee.

  1. A criminal gang used a drone swarm to harass an FBI raid.
  2. An oral history  of Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison at 50.
  3. The gambler who cracked the horse-racing code. Related: The man who cracked the lottery and author delays book about poker due to huge wins.
  4. The physics of doing the laundry.
  5. It’s official: Tut’s Tomb has no hidden chambers after all.
  6. Meet the man who spent the last 20 years as a full-time resident of Royal Caribbean cruise ships (video).
  7. Why barns are red.
  8. A thermodynamic answer to why birds migrate.
  9. American Airlines flight attendants rent out their seniority for $200.
  10. Ian McEwan “dubious” about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I recommend The Sun Does Shine, the autobiography of Anthony Ray Hinton who was sent to Alabama’s death row in 1985 for two murders he didn’t commit. It’s an extraordinary story of rising above hate and stoically serving as an inspiration for others. Here’s my full review.

Robin Williams movies on streaming services

Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.

I’m currently reading Dave Itzkoff’s revealing biography of Robin Williams, which will be released on May 15. It’s a compelling book and I’ll post a full review soon. Reading about the talented comedian made me want to rewatch some of his films. Below is a list Williams movies currently available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu streaming services. Of course many others are available for rental, but this list covers what’s included in the plans most people have.

Continue reading

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories from the week. If you’re in need of a good book, check out my latest very short reviews of books.

  1. The return of the brick-and-mortar store.
  2. Is Marvel Killing the Movies?
  3. Fake books on Amazon could be used for money laundering.
  4. The gamification of retail.
  5. Pirate radio stations explode on YouTube.
  6. The next  big tech leap that will free us from our phones won’t be here anytime soon.