Thursday, October 07, 2010


In the not-so-distant past, I wrote about community theatre's blessings and curses; how that special artform brought you in close contact with people you could get along phenomenally with, and completely lose touch with following the cast party. In that same post, I mentioned that the instances in which I've escaped that fate were few and far between, and it looks as though they're growing fewer and farther.

One show in particular brought me close to a couple of people my age. Throughout the rehearsal process, the run of the show, and even for several months after that, we were thick as thieves. We hung out at trivia, went to shows other companies were putting on, and just visited each other and talked online all the time. I thought I'd finally found people in this little realm whom I could call and hang out with on a boring Thursday night.

But it occurs to me now, seeing the situations that surround us, that community theatre friendships are inevitably victims of circumstance. None of the paths our lives are on are likely to cross again; I work in marketing, and I have the flexibility to continue to perform on-stage to my heart's content (hence my three-show fall). Neither of them do: one is in graduate school and the other is attempting to do the same. And the places we've moved and the changes we've endured have apparently rendered it impossible for any of us to meet in person. I've most recently seen one of these people in, I believe, June, and the other even less recently. Phone calls and instant messages are less frequently answered, and invitations to go out and grab a beer and a bite are, without fail, rebuffed.

I shouldn't be disappointed. I should have seen this coming. After all, it happens every time. I just got my hopes up a little too high when the process took that much longer.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Remember when?

In response to a Twitter question I couldn't answer in under 140 characters:

2004 was the year of the Red Sox for Northeastern. It was also my freshman year, and as an overexcited genuine Red Sox fan living in Kennedy Hall, I lived in incredibly close proximity to Fenway Park throughout the storied playoff run. In fact, I found myself rioting celebrating outside the park on, I believe, six separate occasions that October.

The majority of those incidences were entirely peaceful. Following the win against the Angels and the first three wins against the Yankees, Lansdowne Street was a bedlam of jubilation, rather than that of destructive mentalities.

But the final win against the Yankees, after Game 7 (where the result was never really in doubt), the mob got unruly.  BPD officers were summoned to try and control the crowds behind the Monster, and several patrolmen were armed with specialized guns that fire pepper pellets.  These pellets are designed to disperse crowds; think projectile Mace.

Well, at some point during the evening, a BPD officer found cause to fire his pepper pellet gun into the crowd. The shot struck an Emerson student in the face, and she lay bleeding on the sidewalk.  Naturally, since this was the fifth such riot in only two weeks' time, several news organizations had photographers stationed near Lansdowne Street to respond to the riots celebrations. The photographer for the Boston Herald took a picture of a then-still-alive Victoria Snelgrove as she was treated on the sidewalk.

Snelgrove died between press time for the Herald and morning reveille. The Boston Herald had a picture of a bloodied (but, I repeat, alive) Victoria Snelgrove on pages A2 and A3.

Cue mass outrage.  The unwashed masses hollered in protest at the callous treatment of Snelgrove by the Herald, despite the fact that she had not died when the paper went to press.  Every journalism class in Boston discussed the merits of publishing that photo.  But NEU took it one step further and removed the free Boston Herald copies throughout campus.

Technically, it can't be proven (as far as I'm aware, anyway) that the removal was in response to the Snelgrove picture. But I don't recall there being any exhortations to the contrary from NEU administration. After another outcry from the student body about the injustice of the papers being taken, they were eventually restored. For the remainder of my college career (ending in 2009), the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, NU News (later Huntington News) and NU Voice were all available to students if they knew where and when to look.

The cowardice of the NEU administration wasn't forgotten by the JRN students, though.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to save community theatre

I experienced a collision of worlds today, and from that debris I’ve got a half-baked idea that I want to get some feedback on.

Eastern Mass. is flooded with community theatre groups, advocates, participants, and audience members. Inside route 128, it seems as though each significant town has its own theatre group (or two), and each group has its own identity and set of core members.

The last few years, however, have not been kind to some of these groups. Each has suffered various levels of attrition as their most senior members have retired from active roles and the economy’s trouble thinned the numbers of audience members. But some groups have suffered more than others. There are several theatre groups out there that are getting left behind due to a lack of resources and manpower, and there are several theatre groups in danger of folding.

Community theatre isn’t about survival of the fittest, though. If we can save these groups and help restore them to a level at which they can sustain themselves again, and renew the promise of old glorious productions, we, as community theatre devotees, should do what we can.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been contributing in a substantial way to the redesign of the public image of one particular theatre group. We’re conceptualizing a new, more modern logo, creating a stronger and more helpful website, and coordinating an all-fronts PR campaign. The team undertaking these tasks has evolved quickly into a well-oiled machine that seeks out candidates for individual jobs and manages all of them to rejuvenate a company’s image in a short period of time.

Why couldn’t that become a freelance gig?

Assemble a team of “stage ringers” whom a struggling theatre group can contract with. On this team are several consultants who each have an expertise in one particular facet of a theatre rejuvenation project: a website designer, a PR guru, a social media whiz, a graphic designer, a nonprofit manager, a fundraising expert. This team adds the group’s president (a community representative) to their team for the duration of the project, and together they decide on a direction of the redesign and go to work.

What’s more, each of these consultants is a theatre advocate, so the groups with which this team would partner can trust the experts to have the group’s best interests at heart, and the instincts of an old stage friend.

Because this is a freelance group, and because this is a passion for each of the members of this “crack team”, each consultant would accept a discounted fee for their services. This would make it more affordable for the groups interested in the project. And if even that proved to be too much for the group to afford, the consultants who could afford to work pro bono could do so and the others would pass.

It seems to me like a win-win situation: this crack team gets paid for work in an area they love, and the group gets a low-cost redesign that can rejuvenate a flagging group. But I’m sure there are steps I’m missing – what are they? The more I think about this, the more I wonder if it’s doable.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Theatre sandbox

Today is the audition for my second Summer Scene production. Of all the shows I've ever been connected with, Once on this Island is probably the one with which I have the most exposure. So naturally, that's the show I chose to do in my second year (the first was Seussical, which I can get passionate about in no time). But I'm going to encounter a similar challenge: enrollment. I had to make Seussical work last year with only 12 kids, and I've got to make Island work with only 14.

The great benefit of the program is that it can be very sandbox-like: it's a summer camp, these kids aren't doing it because they're going to be going on to Walnut Hill or Tisch, they're doing it because it's fun and they like the idea of getting up and putting on a show. So their enthusiasm (without the inherent competition and diva-like symptoms) gives me the flexibility to try some new things. Last year, I had a concept for how the entire show was going to emerge from a television. And it did. This year, I want to take Island and "Nutcrackerize" it. And I will.

That's why I love this program: it's laid-back enough that I can still make "let's just have fun" our primary motto, but the kids take it seriously enough that I can try some ideas I have.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Between the ears

I don't generally like doing the "pet peeve" blog posts, but a pattern has emerged lately that's become disturbing to me.  People have an incredible capacity for good, but they also have an incredible capacity to not think.  That old axiom that we only use half (maybe less) of our actual brain potential? Feels true of late.

Without giving any details, someone I know has been repeatedly inconvenienced, left out to dry, and overlooked by people he has to deal with every day.  I wish I could elaborate, I really do, but for a whole host of reasons, I need to keep my mouth shut.  But the extent to which he's not thought of by people who should know better doesn't reflect well on the operation.

Driving, too, you see it.  When I'm driving in the right lane of a highway, passing an on-ramp, and a car entering the highway is timed so that he would merge in just as I would pass him, I change lane.  It's really not that hard - it keeps traffic moving at the same speed, it's courteous to the driver entering, and it's safer than playing chicken with an unknown quantity.  But nine times out of ten, the person on the highway doesn't have the cognitive function to notice this, look around, and make an adjustment.

My patience runs out when people can't be bothered to process information and make a reasonable decision. If the decision isn't to my liking but is reasoned, I can accept that. It's when substantial amounts of viable information are ignored that I get frustrated.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In nomine

Let me just say right from the outset that this post started out as another "what have I read lately" review post. And I'll mention those quickly, but in my head the topic rapidly evolved into a "holy crap, how did all this religion stuff appear in my life at once" post.

On the book side of things, after I finished The Wild Things, I moved on to a nonfiction I've had on the shelf for some time, Vows. It's the biography (written by their son) of a priest and ex-nun who marry, and their struggle to reconcile a relationship they see as perfectly holy with a Catholic Church that disagrees.

It was an interesting book, a little slow-moving at first, but a not-insubstantial indictment of the speed with which the Catholic Church allows for change. And the Boston-centrism of the narrative helped keep me involved.

Following that, on the boy's suggestion, I read Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bible!. This one I ran really hot-and-cold on. The opening story, about the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam and Eve, reminded me very, very clearly of The Creation of the World and Other Business, an Arthur Miller play I acted in my senior year of high school. So much so, in fact, that I started to get angry and wonder about plagiarism.

The rest of the book just didn't really thrill me. The boy built it up for me before I picked it up, so I suspect my expectations were too high, but alas. It was the same when I passed along Nameless to him - I had built it up to a point it couldn't achieve.

At any rate, the subject of those two books, combined with a resurgence of interest in Jesus Christ Superstar (centering on the fact that I saw it again last weekend) just startled me with how much religion can appear without even thinking about it.

Does that happen to anybody else? You can go ages without thinking about some big concept like religion and suddenly, bang, there's three instances in short succession and you can't help focusing for a little bit?

Wistful for a beast

I'm not one of those guys who takes fantastic care of his car. I don't take it in for oil changes as frequently as I should, I don't get it washed (it's gonna rain anyway), and I certainly don't name it.

But lately I find myself increasingly wistful for a machine I treated like crap in the 6 years or so I owned it.

I'm talking about my old Jeep Grand Cherokee. A '95 model, the thing lasted me longer than I probably deserved to have it last. I finally admitted it was time to move on when the rear wheel bearings, ring-and-pinion, and differential all started to go at the same time. That's $1500 of repairs, at least, and the car definitely wasn't worth that anymore, so I sold the thing for what I could get ($475) and got a '99 Taurus with more problems than it let on.

But that Jeep, man, that Jeep. The beast saved my life once when the driver's side front wheel came clean off the car when I was traveling at 65 mph. State cops later said if I'd driven anything smaller than my beastly SUV, the car would have rolled and I probably wouldn't have walked away from the accident completely unhurt.

And despite how poorly I treated the thing (go 6-7,000 miles between oil changes, leave it out in the elements, etc.), the beast took everything I threw at it, chimed "thank you sir, may I have another", and kept right on rolling.

I loved that car. It hurt a bit to have to move on from it when I know it still has life. It felt a little bit like abandoning an aged pet cause it got an ear infection but was otherwise okay. I've found it worse because there are so many mid-90s Grand Cherokees out on the road still - it's as though the world at large is rubbing it in my face that my car couldn't make it.

(Of course, there are nearly as many if not more late 90s Ford Tauri out there, but still.)

My Ford and I haven't yet developed that symbiotic relationship that my Jeep and I did. Of course, that's probably a function of so many things needing fixing on the Taurus (engine skip, coolant flush, new tires, needed brakes and bearings recently, transmission slip), and frankly, I'm not sure it ever will reach the level my old Jeep did. It's a terrible thought, but once I'm settled wherever the boy and I end up living, I want to start thinking about how long it will take to save up for a better used car.

Until then, however, I'm going to remain wistful when I see a mid-90s Jeep on the road, because I should still be driving one.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Performance Adrenaline

I've never had any problem speaking in front of a group of people, mainly because I'm usually on a script I know inside, outside, and backwards. Speaking extemporaneously I'm a little less sure of what I'm doing, but that's never stopped me. Taking a deep breath before the big solo number or hoping against hope that you remember all of the steps to the dance break, it's a thrill.

So when I was thrown into the proverbial deep end yesterday and asked to give a 5-minute presentation of my company and product, I got that familiar adrenaline rush. I was in over my head in several respects - I'm still not well-versed enough on data backup to answer most technical questions, and this was the first time I was flying solo as an exhibitor on what amounted to a trade show floor. (I've been trade show staff a dozen times, but never an exhibitor.)

It was a performance of sorts. I had to get up there and talk about something I didn't know as well as I ought, and do so without being dry, boring, overly technical, or committing any of a host of presentation sins that have been drilled into my consciousness. Oh, and do so eloquently.

Tougher stuff than I originally expected. I would like to think I did fairly well with it, as I had a pocketful of business cards when I left, but I'll definitely need some practice at it. But the adrenaline rush as I was presenting or talking to people one-on-one afterward reminded me of being on stage, and I thought it was an apt comparison.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pressing our noses to the window

I am not, nor have I ever been, an “expert” in social media. By all accounts, I’m a novice to the field. Been on Facebook since it was restricted to accounts, been on Twitter for 18 months or so, LinkedIn for over a year.

But I could pretend to be an expert. Look, it’s easy:

How to be a social media expert in six “easy” steps

1. Build your audience.

2. Listen to people.

3. Give them valuable content.

4. Listen to people.

5. Ask questions.

6. Listen to people.

Here’s what the real secret is: it’s all a load of shit. And that’s the biggest fault I find with so many social media “experts” out there today: they assume the route I’ll take to utilizing social media will be the same as the route they took.

That’s not possible anymore. The social media universe is hyper-saturated by people just like me, ambitious twenty-somethings who can write a lick and have had a computer at their fingertips since before they knew how many fingertips they had.

The reality is that there was a window during which those lucky few earliest adopters of these technologies realized that common sense should prevail over industry hesitation. Those folks experienced a meteoric and lightning-quick ascendancy to social media stardom. In gratitude for their success, they’ve tried to teach their disciples how to do the same.

But what nobody is willing to say is that we can’t. That window slammed shut when that common concept of do-unto-others became widespread. And the social media influencers that made it through the window before it closed keep beckoning to those of us inside, waving us on to Never Never Land without seeing that there’s a pane of glass in the way.

I don’t need a social media Buddha who’ll tell me the only way to become an expert is to be one. I don’t need crazy analogies to how successful marketing is like a box of business cards. I can’t crowdsource a problem when I can’t develop a crowd. And it’s awful easy for someone with 25,000 followers to tell me to “listen to my audience”, but I struggle to assemble more than 150.

I don't want a pep talk.

The trail is jammed and not enough people make it through, so I must forge my own path with a machete and my own guile. The only way to alleviate hyper-saturation, after all, is to do things completely differently.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community Theatre's blessing, curse, and unfortunate necessities

The last show I'm going to do for a long time ended this past Sunday as Fiddler on the Roof in Wellesley closed. It still hasn't really sunk in yet. Maybe it won't, cause I'm planning on cheating a bit: I'm going to jump into the crew for Spelling Bee in Newton if my schedule will allow, and the director for Wellesley's EMACT festival show has been operating on the fait accompli method of persuading me to join their crew, too. (Not to mention I'm expecting to be directing again this summer at Summer Scene.)

But I realized during the show's run that I had fallen again into the trap of only really talking to people during tech week and performance weeks. Show after show, I'll make friends with lots of cast members during the rehearsal process, but it's completely superficial. "Hey, you work there, that's interesting." "Hey, you're coming to rehearsals from that town, what route do you take?"

It's bullshit. I don't even know why I do it - is it because I spend so little time with these people during the early rehearsal process that I don't really care? Is it because the course of a show is so short from start to finish that by never getting close to people, I never really lose any friends? Is it because the theatre world in eastern Mass. is so small I can run into people a year, two years down the road, so never getting close doesn't even matter?

Whatever it is, that subconscious strategy gets blown to hell during tech. With so much more time and close contact, not to mention cast parties and outings, longer conversations and deeper histories follow. How is it I don't learn until the show is nearly through that one castmate speaks eight languages and nearly went into the seminary? How is it I don't learn until then that another castmate lost his partner very suddenly last year? That another has been with his wife for fifty years and writes musicals of his own? Another is returning to Los Angeles to pursue acting for a career, another is a well-respected goes on.

It seems to me almost a crime to not know anything until it's too late for it to be meaningful. Even after I've learned these fascinating details, there's so little opportunity to make it into a conversation that it's safer not to bother.

Only on rare occasions does a friendship or relationship surpass the restrictions of a show. I'm dating someone I met through a show. Two close friends were in Oz with me. Another was in Godspell with me and suffered through Beauty and the Beast auditions with me two years ago. But other than that? Nothing real.

It's community theatre's blessing and curse. It's not a huge commitment to do a show three nights a week for eight weeks and on the ninth be kinda crazy and then be done with it all. But by the same token, three nights a week for eight weeks is no basis for a friendship. It's just not enough non-rehearsal interaction.

Job description: make it up as you go

Considering how long I went having few real job leads and fewer close calls, the last three weeks proved to be a very strange situation for me, as I ended up with two offers in only 10 days.

The short version is I'm now a working schmo.

After a very brief tenure at a Boston-based news repurposing and SEO agency (I won't call it a news agency), I joined Nine Technology, a startup disaster recovery firm in Middleboro. My official job title is "Marketing Associate", but in reality, I'm going to function as the social media go-to guy and factotum for content generation.

But that's kind of an interesting situation in and of itself; not really having a set list of duties, but kinda making it up as I go and just trying to be a brand evangelist. It's quite the opposite from the Boston company I was with for seven days, where I had a very specific set of goals each day. I had this many articles to write, I had this much sourcing to do, etc. Here, it's quite a bit more free-form: help us find ways to get the Nine Technology name out, help us create compelling content across all media, and help us make sure we're on top of social media strategies.

Although there's something to be said for the comfort and routine of having that specific duty roster, I do like not quite knowing what the day will bring when I get in the car on the way to work. It's much more exciting this way. Admittedly, I'm nervous about building a social media career when my background isn't in traditional marketing, but that may be a positive. I don't have an old-fashioned paradigm that I need to break out of in order to be effective. I just go with what makes sense, what would grab me and make me hang out on the site.

So hey. I'm 23 years old, I was unemployed for nine months, and now I'm working full-time in social media. Not a bad turnaround, huh?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Response to concept of Publishing/Journalism dichotomy

Chris Brogan recently posted about the differences between "journalism" and "publishing" in the wake of an article about AOL hiring up lots of discarded journalists to help propel its and other efforts.

First, let’s be clear: the pursuits of journalism and the pursuits of publishing aren’t the same.

Journalists seek to create compelling information that is helpful and news-worthy.

Publishing seeks to push more product, deliver higher circulation value, and create more value for sponsors/advertisers/money-holders.

Publishers need content creators of some stripe to do what they do. Journalists don’t need publishers, but publishers pay, so that’s a decent place to connect with an audience and be paid.

But never confuse the two.

The move by AOL is both smart for business and helpful for journalists who’ve lost their jobs.

I have to disagree with some major points here. I would submit that journalism at its heart isn't about delivering compelling content. Journalism is about delivering useful information that sheds light on a difficult or under-the-radar topic. If the content is "compelling," all the better.

I make this distinction very carefully because of the mindset that each demands. If the concept of "compelling" content is foremost in a writer's mind, the basic tenets of journalism (fairness, thoroughness, accuracy) can fall by the wayside. It's more important for the writer who purports to be a journalist to think first about basic journalism skills.

While I like the ideas that engendered the and Your Town initiatives, there is a danger inherent in mixing the ideas of publishing and journalism. See also: That one pays "journalists" based on the clicks they get. Since the pay is based not per-article or per-week, the incentive is for writers to pick incendiary topics that will draw traffic.

If there is going to be a courtship between these two concepts, it needs to allow for journalistic orthodoxy and independence.

My point is it is near impossible to not "confuse the two" when in many of these initiatives, a writer is expected to do both.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wayland Town Meeting

Just a quick post to note that I wrote an article about potential changes to the format of Town Meeting in Wayland for the Globe today. The means of change I discussed are being spearheaded by a a few conservative folks in Wayland, including a former selectman, and would effectively move TM from an open vote on issues to a secret ballot.

The alternatives being considered are the Australian ballot (making day one of TM discussion-only and day two voting-only), representative Town Meeting, or to make no change at all to the format.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let the wild rumpus start!

Certainly we want to protect our children from new and painful experiences that are beyond their emotional comprehension and that intensify anxiety; and to a point we can prevent premature exposure to such experiences. That is obvious. But what is just as obvious — and what is too often overlooked — is the fact that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things. - Maurice Sendak
Last night I finished The Wild Things, which is Dave Eggers' adaptation of Spike Jonze's adaptation of Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are. And while I found the book itself a little bit flawed (the ending seemed rushed and inconclusive, some characters were never given more than one dimension, and Max was caught between being 9 years old and being 45 years old), it did remind me of why I have an immense respect for effective children's literature.

It's no big secret that my favorite author is Dr. Seuss. Not just because the man was an incredible artist who was never truly recognized in his field (incredibly, Seuss never won a Caldecott or a Newbery), but because he had the unique capability to engage children through his writing while challenging their reading abilities and subtly addressing social issues. And let me not forget to note that he did all of this in specific meters.

Think about that for a second - Dr. Seuss wrote about the King of the Turtles in the same way Shakespeare wrote about the King of Denmark 400 years ago.
I am the Lorax! I speak for the trees,
Which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please;
But I also speak for the brown Barbaloots,
Who frolicked and played in their Barbaloot suits,
Happily eating Truffula fruits.
Now, since you've chopped the trees to the ground
There's not enough Truffula fruit to go 'round!
And my poor Barbaloots are all feeling the crummies
Because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies. - The Lorax
I've bolded anything that's not a real word. But when kids read Seuss, they can feel the rhythm of his meter and predict what the word sounds like. Even if it's a word they've never seen before and will never see again, kids can pick out exactly what it will sound like based on the cadence of the line leading up to it and because Seuss picked easy syllables to manage.

What kind of mastery of language must it take to teach people meter and rhythm a decade before they'll understand it?

How often do you hear of precocious 3 and 4 year-olds who've memorized The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham? They can't yet read every word in front of them, but they're so engaged in the content and so caught in the meter that they want nothing more than to emulate the people who can read every word. You don't hear those stories about Harry Potter, you don't hear those stories about Artemis Fowl, you don't hear those stories about The Velveteen Rabbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, even Where the Wild Things Are. I don't deny the importance of each of those works, far from it, but I would argue they're not as significant as Seuss.

Without looking it up on Wikipedia, give me a brief synopsis of C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Now try Sendak's In the Night Kitchen. Maybe you can do it, maybe you can't. Now try Green Eggs and Ham. See the difference? Seuss, in no small part because of the meter and because of the illustration, has a greater staying power and a greater recall than more "substantial" literature.

And that's what makes it effective. You remember the story of Green Eggs and Ham even though you may not have held the book for decades. And that's what reading is about - learning and remembering. How much more effective can a book be than to make you remember the plot, the characters, hell, even lines from it years and years later?

I submit to you that Dr. Seuss was the most important children's author of the last 150 years.

Certainly not an original assertion, I acknowledge. But I thought the point needed to be made - as I worked through The Wild Things, I remembered only how this book differed from the movie, and that it was certainly different from the original book. That said, I couldn't remember much of how it was different from the original - Where the Wild Things Are didn't stick with me the same way.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Vim and Vigor

I swear, I need to put signs with these words on the wall behind my computer. Just thinking about that little mantra is enough to refocus my energies and get me excited to write again. Simply, nothing gets me out of a rut faster than thinking about the potential I have in my fingers to write something that affects people, that could change somebody's world.

In that spirit, I want to apply the phoenix treatment to this blog. Out of the ashes of a less-than-full-throated effort in the past year, I want to put a better stamp on things. I have the privilege of writing for the Boston Globe on a regular basis, and the freedom to write for Blast Magazine whenever I choose.

So perhaps the wisest choice for me is to make this a clearinghouse of sorts, where much of my content is reposted/shared.

At any rate, for lack of a current article (although that will change in the not-so-distant future), I can chronicle my goal of reading 30 books in 2010.

Thus far, I've read:

Batman: Year One - This was a Christmas gift from the boy. I'm not a comic book devotee, as he is, but the idea of Batman always intrigued me. No superpowers, just an incredible intellect and training. Year One was put together by Frank Miller, of 300 and Sin City fame. It was an interesting take on the origins of the Dark Knight, one not in keeping with the recent movies. But as I read it only after I'd seen the movies, it felt strange to read an "obsolete" version of events.

Finlater - Grabbed this from the free-for-all book table at the Globe. I don't even really know what drew me to this one. It wasn't a bad book, it just resolved very quickly and with picture-perfect tied ends. It felt a little cliched in that regard.

In Defense of Our America - Another pickup from the Globe (I haven't paid for any of the books I've read this year). An interesting chronicle of several major cases the ACLU advocated for since 9/11. Predictably, the "good guys" came out on top in each of them, with an awful lot of exposition leading to anticlimactic resolutions. Look, I understand that there's only so much that a Supreme Court decision can be considered exciting, but let's not just gloss over the drama of the presentation.

And I'm currently reading The Wild Things. First Eggers book for me, and thus far I'm not sold on his stardom. It might be because it's from the viewpoint of a 9 year old (although not written entirely as such), but it feels a little overdescribed and overinternalized.