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Tag: pop culture

READING THE TBR, DAY 252: Ayoade on Top (2019) by Richard Ayoade

Hey, I just bought this book the other day, and here I am reading it practically right away. Have a turned over a new leaf? Maybe. Or maybe I was just way, way too excited to read a book about the Gwyneth Paltrow/Mark Ruffalo romantic dramedy View from the Top.

Because that is what this book is about.

Yes, comedian Richard Ayoade, perhaps best known for his brilliant turn as Moss on The I. T. Crowd, tackles this under-rated — well, no, actually pretty much precisely rated — 2003 film that saw Paltrow enter the cutthroat world of stewardessing (it’s set in the 1980s; they still used that word then) and have to choose between the lure of the skies and the love of a good… well, decent… well okay, kind of a dick… man.

Chapter by chapter, and act by act, Ayoade examines Top — as he affectionately calls it — with what might be considered perfect irony, at times giving it the full film critic-y fulsomeness, at others pointedly highlighting its many absurdities. Infusing this loving recap of the film with personal reminiscence and interesting ephemera, Ayoade has produced here a riot of a book that kept me in a perpetual state of giggle for pretty much its entire length.

I had no idea, before he mentioned it herein, that Ayoade had previously written other books on film, and obviously they are now on my wish list for purchase as soon as may be. But it seems like I should wait until I’ve cleared some more of the unread books from my shelves before I buy them. Otherwise I won’t be able to resist reading them immediately, it seems.


TBR DAY 252: Ayoade on Top by Richard Aoyade
GENRE: Pop Culture, Film, Humour
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 days!  
KEEP: Yep!

READING THE TBR, DAY 59: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (2011) by Patton Oswalt

Everyone likes Patton Oswalt. I certainly do. He’s funny, he’s honest, and his frequent pop culture references run the gamut from accessible to esoteric. (I also like that his politics mostly align with mine.) His comedy is trenchant and observational and personal, but also sometimes entirely surreal. Then sometimes perhaps a tad too real. His bit about watching that My Little Pony show with his daughter and getting way too invested in it made me cry, for so many reasons. (For context, I was watching the recent Rapunzel TV series with my friend’s 4-year-old yesterday. She got bored and left the room two episodes in. I watched the next three by myself, and was very outraged on Rapunzel’s behalf in Episode 5 when Monty the sweet shop owner disliked her so intensely. I mean, how is that even fai–?)


So, I like Patton Oswalt. I relate to him a lot. And he is forever himself.

This scattered but suitably likeable collection of his writings is a series of vignettes about his early life and the world of stand up. There is the requisite “Worst Gig Ever” tale (most comedic memoirs have one), and there is, thrillingly, a paean of praise to the written word, including more than a few book recs that I immediately noted down. (Because, as I always say in my most sarcastic of voices, what I really need is new books to add to my TBR.)

It is a fast read, but not unchallenging, and it ends with a caricature of an older female relative — in this case, Oswalt’s grandmother, but we all have one of these — which is just perfect. Funny, of course, the book is also thoughtful, and the passage about the appeal of a post-apocalyptic wasteland could not be more accurate… not to this post-apocalypse fan’s way of thinking, anyway. 

Highly recommended, especially if you like Patton Oswalt. Which, surely you do.

Because everyone does.


TBR DAY 59: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Pop Culture, Humour 
TIME ON THE TBR: 1 year.  
KEEP: Yep.

READING THE TBR, DAY 56: Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology (2016), edited by Travis Langley

I love comics for their action and humour and the fact that they force us to figure out, from limited words and images, what the hell is going on. I love them for the relationships they build in their pages, their fantastical elements and their layered, complex characters and arcs spanning decades. But more than anything I love them for their allegory, their ability to echo real life problems and potentials in their colourful, spandex-filled, often child-friendly pages.

I therefore find scholarly analyses of comic books’ deeper meaning fascinating, and a book that examines the psychology employed in Captain America and Iron Man — -the psychology that led them to take opposite sides during Civil War — could almost have been written especially for me.

This collection of essays — headed with a careless Foreword by Stan Lee, who it seems was also required to make cameo appearances even in unauthorised Marvel-related productions, prior to his recent death — is quite well put together, and is often quite thought-provoking. Much is discussed of Freud and Jung and their cohorts, and relates the actions of Tony and Cap to their underlying theories. The most successful essay, , invokes Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment, and suggests that asking kids a question like “What would Captain America do?” can help them — and, by extension, also help adults — learn empathy. I entirely agree with that. Empathy is a learned behaviour, and exposure to a wide range of fictional worlds and characters opens one up to its benefits. No question. It doesn’t have to be comics, of course, but there is no doubt that a wide array of viewpoints is encompassed in Marvel’s canon, for example.

For the most part, though, the essays seem somewhat simplistic, somewhat lacking in the deep comic knowledge I might have expected and only one really deals with Civil War at all. Which is fine, the others do delineate the differences between our two leaders, and it is these that lead to their positions on Registration. (I am pro-Registration, by the way. Superheroes are basically weapons. Weapons should be registered and regulated. @me, if you want. Happy to discuss!)

The essays look at their childhoods, their adult traumas and their leadership styles to explain why they are the way they are — but many of the essays differ on how they are, because of course, in the long and storied history of both characters, they have morphed and changed and you can find a quote from some obscure issue to prove any point, only to have someone else use another such to prove the opposite. It is the nature of the collaborative hodgepodge of often half-baked ideas that is any modern comic book hero.

So, no definitive conclusions are made — and nor really can they be, psychology being the imprecise pseudo-science it really, really is. But this book is, nevertheless, an interesting rumination on Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and the conflicts that have bloomed between them over the years, and why that might have been — and that is good enough for me. 


TBR DAY 56: Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology, edited by Travis Langley
GENRE: Pop Culture, Comics, Non-Fiction, Psychology
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: It was a gift.
KEEP: Of course.