Welcome to This Week's Obsessions, a regular feature that touches on what has us buzzing in Eye Street.
The thing that's taken up the most space in my brain this week is a new book by my friend John Avlon. Well, not by him so much as through him. It's a compilation of newspaper articles dating back to the beginning of print media. It's called "Deadline Artists -- Scandals, Tragedies, and Triumphs ." Edited by Avlon, Jesse Angelo and Errol Lewis, it's a fascinating way to not only learn history, but relive it. From the Lincoln assassination to the world wars to Watergate and on and on, you get the perspective of the great writers of all time, written as the events were unfolding. The book offers a vivid sense of the mood of the country at the time, from our best writers: Will Rogers, H.L. Mencken, Irvin S. Cobb, Ernest Hemingway writing about bullfights and Damon Runyan (whose articles about the trial of Al Capone are worth the price of the book). The stories are a testament not only to great writing, but to America's greatness. There's a story by Lindsay Denison from 1923 about a KKK gathering in New Jersey that's probably more chilling now than it was then. There's some excellent sports reporting, too, from the Black Sox Scandal to Jack Dempsey to Joe Namath. Since it's a series of articles, you can put it down anytime you like, which is perfect for my limited attention span. Best thing I've read in a couple of years.
Rock 'n' roll manners
I've been thinking a lot about concert etiquette lately. There are some do's and don'ts that are supposed to be observed.
First off, make an effort to get there on time. I know you think you're too cool for the opening band, and that may be true, but get yourself situated well before the headliners start. People pay a small fortune for tickets these days, and they deserve to see all of the show, and very little of you, which brings me to a very important piece of concert etiquette: when to stand up. I'm not talking about the Vans Warped Tour here -- teenagers have the energy to jump around a lot, and they need something to distract them from the fact that their music is awful. I'm talking to the grownups. Let's use Styx as an example: They open the show with a high-energy hit song. You should be standing up for this song. After that, the default position is sitting. They have songs coming later specifically designed to get you out of your seat again. When you stand up during the non-designated-standing-up parts of the show, you block the view of all the people around you, forcing them to lean one way or the other to try to see around you, until they give up and stand up too, forcing a chain reaction that goes all the way to the back row.
And while I'm locked into this rant, how about you limit your singing-along? I'm glad you know all the words, but I bought my ticket to hear the band sing. My ticket didn't say "Tonight only: Styx -- and a tone-deaf drunk lady who REALLY likes that 'Babe' song."
King of the actors
Everyone is still talking about the Oscars. As a straight man, I have never watched the show, but the buzz is inescapable. Anyone who saw "Lincoln" knew Daniel Day-Lewis would be taking home another statue for best actor, and there's a good reason for that: He's the best actor in the world, and maybe the best ever. In his honor, I watched a couple of his movies: "There Will Be Blood" and "Gangs of New York." I watched them both, and seeing this guy go from Bill the Butcher to Daniel Plainview is nothing short of amazing. Day-Lewis is like the Michael Jordan or the Elvis of acting. Everyone else is playing for second.