Shopping List for the Hungry Mind 2

READING: A Prayer for the City: The True Story of a Mayor and Five Heroes in a Race Against Time by Buzz Bissinger. The inside-look at then Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell as he combats budget gaps, unions, and fickle constituents during his first term in office. A story for the city of Philadelphia, especially as it approaches a mayoral election in the Fall.

WATCHING: Igby Goes Down (2002) directed by Burr Steers: In the vein of The Catcher in the Rye, this coming of age satire follows Igby as he stumbles down the paths of self-discovery and self-destruction amid his dysfunctional family upbringing.

LISTENING: Cake’s “Pressure Chief”. Catchy lyrics with a quiet, tongue-in-cheeck kind of humor mixed with multiple musical genres make this Indie band always a delight.

Kristina Devoe

READING: Dostoevsky, Fyodor: Notes from Underground, The Double and Other Stories: Existential Fiction at its dreariest. Dostoevsky is a master in this genre as well as a master writer in general. He portrays the mannerisms of polite society so well and really knows how to set a scene. These stories are not as involved or active as some of his other works (like The Brothers Karamazov) but they are great for their own reasons.

WATCHING: The X Files, all seasons: This show is the precursor to the types of crime dramas you see all over television now. Before The X Files television shows never bothered to include even portions of the science behind crime and detective work. Now, it’s included in every show. Even though it had a relatively low special effects budget, and took place in the early 90’s, The X Files still does a better job of telling a story and not being too dumb for normal audiences.

LISTENING: Phish and Dave Matthews Band: I happen to read an article in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History about the so-called “Jam Band” phenomena, and it mentioned both of these bands. I’ve always been a fan of both groups but never considered some of the possible philosophical motivations. I have been listening to both, especially the live recordings, and noting the spirit of the improvisations that they embark on while performing. I could listen to these two bands all day and never get tired.

Nik Barkauskas

READING: Jacques the Fatalist and His Master by Denis Diderot (1796) (a translation in English) (the original in French): Inspired by Sterne’s Tristam Shandy, philosopher Diderot wrote this funny novel about a master and his servant who believes in determinism. The real joy here is the author’s experimental approach to narrative, which prefigures the metafictional work of authors from the 20th century. First lines: “How had they met? By chance, like everyone. What were their names? What’s it matter to you? Where were they coming from? From the closest place. Where were they going? Does anyone know where they’re going? What did they say? The master said nothing, and Jacques said that his captain said that all that happens, good or bad, is written on high.”

WATCHING: Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi, Sundays at 10pm or download at iTunes): Barring names, this television series bears almost no relation to its campy 70s precursor. The creators have taken up the long tradition of social commentary in science fiction (usually absent from sci-fi television) and shaped an episodic narrative that is not only dramatically riveting but places contemporary ethical, social, and political issues onto a futuristic setting. From presidential elections to terrorism, collaboration, and torturing enemies, Battlestar Galactica is one of the bravest shows on television for allowing us to step back and look at these issues anew. The best show on television, period.

LISTENING: Freedom’s Road by John Mellencamp (2007): Probably best known for his small town pop hit “Jack and Diane”, Mellencamp has been putting out albums for years that blend rock, country, pop, and folk influences into a oeuvre that is often inconsistent but riddled with great songs. His latest album continues his tendency to political commentary with songs that are clearly directed at our current political climate. “Our Country”, which I’m sure you’ve heard on commercials for trucks, taken without its commercial baggage is a great Woody Guthrie-esque tune that harkens back to “This Land is Your Land”. “Freedom’s Road” addresses the glories and dangers of freedom.

Derik Badman

1 thought on “Shopping List for the Hungry Mind 2

  1. Kristina,
    I am so glad that you mentioned “A Prayer for the City” by Buzz Bissinger. It should be required reading for anyone working in Philadelphia!
    best,
    Anne Harlow

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