Reading / Watching / Listening – Machine Man / Safety Not Guaranteed / Knaves Grave

Reading – MACHINE MAN by Max Barry

Wow.  Just finished this book this morning and it’s just so perfect.  Everything I look for in a great story.  Grounded science fiction, a romance at it’s heart, laugh out loud, brought tears to my eyes, gasped audibly, asked deep questions about life without providing pat easy answers.  HIGHLY recommended.

Machine Man tells the story of Charles Neumann, a scientist who loses a leg in a lab accident and finds himself disappointed with the current limb-replacement technology.  So he builds himself a new leg.  A scientifically perfect leg.  But then Neumann finds himself disappointed with his remaining human limbs.

My previous experience with Barry was reading Jennifer Government, another book that I loved, and he’s quickly become one of my favorite authors.  Both books deal with the potential dangers of unregulated capitalism, but in a satirical way that is never at the forefront.  You almost get the feeling that Barry WANTS these unethical visions of capitalism to come true, just to see what’s possible.  There’s a curiosity there.  A trait of all great writers.  Max Barry is kind of like Kurt Vonnegut, had Vonnegut survived a marketing degree instead of World War II.

Darren Aronofsky is apparently attached to direct the film, and it’s ripe for adaptation.  Structured like a film.  Very visual.

Watching – Safety Not Guaranteed

I pretty much limit my TV viewing to two sitcoms and can safely say that Jake Johnson is what makes New Girl worth watching every week (sorry Zooey).  Aubrey Plaza is consistently great in everything she’s done – Parks & Rec (the only other sitcom I keep up with), Scott Pilgrim, Funny People.  The Duplass Brothers (producing here) are within my top ten filmmakers.  Mark Duplass as an actor continues to impress me, a rare, truly relatable leading man.  Producers Marc Turtletaub & Peter Saraf previously brought us Adaptation, Little Miss Sunshine, & Away We Go.

So pull all these pieces together with a creative and clever premise and a unique voice from first-time feature director (Colin Trevorrow) & writer (Derek Connolly), and this film was tailor-made for me.

Safety Not Guaranteed is based on an actual classified ad which reads:

WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me.  This is not a joke.  You’ll get paid after we get back.  Must bring your own weapons.  I have only done this one before.  Safety not Guaranteed.

The film follows Johnson and Plaza who, as journalists, track down the man who posted the ad (played by Duplass) in order to write an article poking fun at the ridiculousness of it.  Along the way Plaza develops feelings for Duplass, but what’s so refreshing about that film is how much it keeps you guessing from there.  A wonderful example of how you can take big ideas and make them on a budget.  A wonderful film full of surprises, humor, depth, and heart.

Listening – KNAVES GRAVE – Jake Ryan Maxi-Single

My friend Sunni told me she played in a band.  Normally when a friend tells me this I cross my fingers.  I want them to be good SO bad.  And honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised about 70% of the time.  But occasionally I’m completely blown away… and this was the case with Knaves Grave.

Knaves Grave is girl-fronted, straight-forward rock-n-roll.  They’ve got hints of the lo-fi riot grrrl thing, but without taking themselves too seriously  – at it’s heart, these are nostalgia-influenced pop songs, catchy sing-alongs.  There’s a Prince cover (I Would Die 4 U), an homage to the Ramones (Fuck Off Like Totally), and an instrumental clearly influenced by the Cure (Heartbreak #2).  The title track Jack Ryan is just my favorite thing ever – will get caught in your head for days and you’ll be happy about it.

You can download the whole album for free here.

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