June 8, 2012
Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
We all like mindless entertainment like comedies or action flicks, but sometimes we like to dig a little deeper into a subject matter. Here are some gift ideas for dads with an attention span that lasts more than 10 minutes.
Senior Rolling Stone
critic Will Hermes grew up in Queens in the 1970s and was able to witness one of the most creative music scenes of the last century. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a mess. Middle class citizens had escaped to the suburbs, crime was out of control and the city was teetering on bankruptcy. But musicians poured into the city to take advantage of the cheap rent and venues like CBGB's gave them a platform to showcase their talent. Hermes decided to tell the story of the city's music scene, from New Year's Day 1973 to New Year's Eve 1977, with the help of his own memories of that era coupled with meticulous research that included the treasure trove of concert footage that's available on YouTube. Many music fans associate this era in New York with punk rock, and Hermes delivers with great stories about the Ramones, the Dictators, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Blondie, Lou Reed, the Talking Heads and others, but he also gives equal time to the hip-hop, disco and salsa scenes that also dominated the city's music at the time. Bruce Springsteen didn't fit into any of these categories, but the New Jersey legend was a constant presence in the city, recording his two greatest albums during this period. This book will make a great gift for any music fan.
This isn't just a great biography. Isaacson is a very talented writer, historian and storyteller who's written about great men such as Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein. Jobs is also a fascinating figure, but the difference here is that Steve Jobs just passed away this year, and we're able to read about a man whose accomplishments and impact on society are so fresh in our minds. Practically everyone who reads this book can relate to Jobs' inventions and innovations, making the story that much more compelling.
This was made possible because Jobs gave Isaacson access during the final years of his life, and Jobs was willing to open up and let Isaacson see him for who he was, warts and all. We see a man who was both brilliant and petulant. He was extremely passionate but often rude and insulting. We see how Jobs' obsessive attention to detail and passion for products led to his stunning successes, as well as some of his more spectacular failures.
One of the more fascinating story lines involves his rivalry with Bill Gates. Jobs was obsessed with total control over his products and insisted on closed systems so he could control the user experience. Job relied on his intuition and his maniacal attraction to beauty and simplicity. Gates believed in open systems and was eager to license his software to a wide variety of partners, even if that meant sacrificing the user experience and quality. Gates was the clear winner early as PCs dominated Macs and Apple almost went bankrupt, but Jobs had the last laugh as he pushed Apple to revolutionize consumer electronics with the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad.
The book is a great read, and it's a great gift for anyone who likes biographies or is interested in technology or business.
On the back of this book, which is a compilation of interviews and other wild stories from Neil Strauss's career as a rock journalist, Strauss states, "You can tell a lot about somebody in a minute. If you pick the right minute. Here are 228 of them." Strauss is a master storyteller, and we got our first introduction to his work years ago when he wrote "The Game
," which in our opinion is the best book you'll on pick-up artists and dating advice for men. Strauss uses some of the same skills he learned as a pick-up artist to get celebrities to talk to him. His use of a mind-reading illusion to get Britney Spears to open up to him is a classic. Strauss recounts all sorts of bizarre encounters, from shooting guns with Ludacris, being kidnapped by Courtney Love and being told off by Prince. As a writer for Rolling Stone
he had access to everybody. The book is very entertaining and makes for a great gift for fans of music and/or celebrities.
What's the best basketball game you've ever seen? There are so many to choose from, but for many of us, it has to be the Duke/Kentucky game from the 1992 NCAA Tournament with the amazing last second pass from Grant Hill that set up Christian Laettner's last second shot. I was in the Caesar's Palace sports book. I had Kentucky and the points so I was a lock to win my bet, but I was rooting for Duke. I'll never forget how the entire sports book exploded with cheers and groans when Laettner hit that shot. If you're shopping for a sports fan, they'll probably love this book from ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski that captures the drama of the moment and tells the stories of the players and coaches involved.
For many of us, it's still hard to fathom the idea that the United States decided to amend the constitution to prohibit the sale of alcohol. "Prohibition" is a three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick now available on DVD and Blu-ray that tells this amazing story. Ken Burns is a master story-teller and his films cover a wide range of topics from baseball to jazz to the Civil War. But his stories always tell the larger story of America in the context of his subject matter. "Prohibition" lives up to his high standards. The first episode is titled "A Nation of Drunkards," and it offers a compelling explanation of how this idea turned into a national movement. The solution turned out to be a disaster, but the story of how the country got to that point is fascinating. The rest of the story, with the bootlegging and the hypocrisy is more familiar but still compelling.
Of course, with Ken Burns you have other great gift options as well, with the Civil War and Baseball: The Tenth Inning also available on DVD. Any of them are great gifts for history buffs.
This is the story of the worldwide poker boom as told through interviews with poker stars like Phil Helmuth and Chris Moneymaker, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, former New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato and also Matt Damon. Damon is a legend in poker circles for his role in "Rounders
," the ultimate poker film from 1998 that told the story of the underground poker scene before the poker craze hit. With the crackdown on online poker several years ago coupled with recent court rulings that might liberalize poker online, the issue of poker and the freedom to play a game of skill has been elevated to a national level. This documentary tackles this issue while also providing an entertaining look at the history of the game. It will make a great gift for poker fans.
The sports world is filled with compelling stories of athletes who came from nothing, rose to stardom and wealth and then crashed back down to Earth. Yet few of these stories are as compelling as the story of Mike Tyson. This documentary by James Toback is narrated by Mike Tyson himself and traces his life from the mean streets of Brooklyn to the heavyweight championship of the world to his spectacular fall. The movie opens with Tyson's devastating knockout of Trevor Berbick to win the title at the age of 20. He was a beast, and every boxing fan had a strong opinion of him. The sport has been in decline for years, but Iron Mike remains one of the most interesting sports figures of our time. This makes a great gift for boxing fans.
Chances are your dad's a "Star Wars" fan. The movie was released in 1977, and most guys loved the movie and the first two sequels. Now, most aren't fanatics like some of the fans who appear in this film, but they'll probably get a kick out of this documentary that addresses the love/hate relationship that fans of the film have with George Lucas. They're obsessed, and they get really angry when Lucas messes with the original Star Wars films in his obsessive desire to keep "improving" the originals. His lame prequels with the horrible casting of Haden Christensen as Darth Vader probably didn't help matters much. The film also tracks the geek culture that has grown up around the movies and the incredible creativity that many of them display as they recreate the film or use it as inspiration for their own stories or art projects.
This is a solid documentary about Neil Young's incredible career that digs deep into his life and influences. Artists like Roy Orbison are explored in great depth and the film offers plenty of interesting information for anyone interested in the history of Rock-n-Roll. Neil Young fans will definitely enjoy it.