2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Books and Documentaries

Whether you’re shopping for someone that likes to kick back with a good book or graphic novel, or enjoys watching documentaries and other non-fiction films, you’ll find several great suggestions here.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Before Watchmen Collections

Have you ever wondered what happened before the events of “Watchmen”? Creator Alan Moore has been pretty outspoken about his thoughts on the matter, but that didn’t stop DC Comics from enlisting some of the industry’s best writers and artists to create eight new miniseries exploring the histories of characters like Nite Owl, Rorschach, The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre and Ozymandias. Serving as a prequel to the original 12-issue series, the “Before Watchmen” comics have since been collected in four hardcover editions, and the end result is a pretty mixed bag, especially since each collection features at least two characters per book. Though that’s good news for diehard fans, those that want to read J. Michael Straczynski’s Nite Owl series but couldn’t care less about his Dr. Manhattan story, for instance, are screwed. Additionally, some of the series are much better than others, with Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen yarn the clear standout. Still, if you know someone who loves “Watchmen” that doesn’t mind that the property’s original creators aren’t involved, “Before Watchmen” makes for interesting supplemental reading.

American Experience: JFK

The story of John F. Kennedy is one of the most fascinating in American history. Regardless of your opinion of our 35th President, he will always be an iconic figure in American history, due to both the pivotal nature of his presidency and his tragic assassination. Debates will rage on about his performance in office and the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and his prolific adventures with the opposite sex have been fodder for the tabloids for decades. His story will captivate anyone who appreciates American history, so any documentary is likely to maintain the attention of viewers. But it’s hard to imagine anyone telling the story better than the folks at PBS who produce “American Experience.” They have consistently told the story of America through its presidents and other influential Americans in a series of compelling documentaries. “JFK” easily lives up to that legacy, and it’s a must-see, as this year we marked the 50th anniversary of that terrible day in Dallas. Like other “American Experience” documentaries, this is not just a story of the JFK presidency, but also the man.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Book Review: The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face

bearded_gentleman

Our introduction to Dr. Allan Peterkin happened a few months ago when we were lucky enough to interview the physician, author and professor and ask him several semi-serious questions about being a man with facial hair; the pitfalls, the perks, the women… ahhhh, the women.

“The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face” piqued my interest in being a man again. Since the divorce, the flame had certainly flickered. I got my hands on a copy and the book is fantastic. It is the de facto quick reference guide on personal style in relation to facial hair ever created, and I am including “The Bible” in that generalization as well.

Dr. Allan Peterkin and Nick (side) Burns toe the line between tongue and cheek humor and historical analysis beautifully. You didn’t know a beard could be “historically analyzed,” did you? Read on, young brother.

The book is an easy read, weighing in at 142 pages comprised of five chapters. But so much ground is covered effortlessly that it could easily be 500 pages. In terms of usefulness, it could be 700 hundred pages. In terms of making you a better “beardsman,” it could be 1,000,000 pages; imagine the size of that book.

“The Bearded Gentleman” opens by addressing the age old question about beard growth in chapter one, “Should I Shave or Should I Grow?” It also attacks myths associated with beards and shaving head-on, leaving the reader with an authoritative answer on things we want to know, but forgot we wanted to know them.

Then, if we were to remember that we wanted to know them, we’d most certainly forget when being in the physical presence of a man with that breadth of knowledge, a man like Dr. Peterkin.

For instance, the number one myth about facial hair and styling is that shaving more actually makes hair grow faster or thicker. In fact, it does not have either effect owing to the fact that, “Facial hair is dead. It just seems thicker when it’s short. When you shave a hair, a once fine point becomes a blunt end, which feels thicker to the touch.”

Aren’t much for the book learnin’ Cletus? Well, calm down, fella. There are 50-plus pages detailing every style of facial hair you can think of, with pictures.

The weird shit that hipster was rocking on his facial canvas when you were in line at the post office the other day? Yeah, there’s a name for that. It’s called the “Garibaldi Beard.” From the “Freddie Mercury” to the “The French Fork,” there are images of each, alongside descriptions of how to achieve the look.

The book also addresses the social stigma associated with facial hair and what is socially acceptable in a classic Q&A format. For example, “Both my dad and my dentist now have goatees. Should I shave mine off?”

“The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face” is the perfect gift for the man in your life, or your mother-in-law who rocks a grey-haired goatee and is seemingly oblivious to it, though it makes everyone else around her so uncomfortable, they can’t even stand to look at her.

To order the book, click here. To write Dr. Peterkin a “Lust Letter,” check out his site here.

  

A Chat with Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss may have had pop culture street-cred for his work as a journalist for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, but it wasn’t until he wrote The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, that he became perceived as a “guy’s guy” journalist…for better or worse. Now, with the help of collaborator Adam Kornblum, The Game has been turned into a game itself. Strauss talked with Bullz-Eye about the unique entity that is Who’s Got Game? while taking additional time to discuss some of his other literary endeavors as well.

Bullz-Eye: So The Game is now officially a game.

Neil Strauss: Yes. In a matter of speaking. [Laughs.]

How weird was that? Was it an idea that you came up with, or did someone else pitch it to you?

Yeah, I don’t think I ever would’ve come up with that on my own. [Laughs.] But now I’m really into it. Now I really love it. There’s two elements. One, it’s really fun – Adam (Kornblum) made a game, and I made it into more of a game that I’d want to play with my friends – and, two, it’s just kind of fun to have a game. It’s kind of a childhood dream. It’s not just Monopoly or Sorry! or Mousetrap or Chutes and Ladders or…there’s this game 221B Baker Street, which is, like, a better Clue. [Laughs.] But all those games…I’d always wanted to do a game, but what I think really motivated me to want to do it was that Adam contacted me, and…I didn’t know him at all, but sometimes in the deluge there’s a compelling email where we sit around and think, “Maybe we should contact this guy.” And he had done a game for Hasbro, so he had some credibility there. He said he had made a game based on the books I’d done already that he’d been, like, taking out to bars and playing there just to meet women. So I thought, okay, this guy’s field-tested his idea, he’s not just writing about an idea that he’s come up with while he’s sitting in front of his email. I guess he’s now engaged, so obviously it worked to some degree. [Laughs.] Anyway, I thought, “Okay, let’s kind of entertain this and take it seriously.” And he sent it over, and I kept just playing it with different friends and then adding tweaks and changing it and adding new types of cards. Like, I really wanted the game to be something that you play in bars but, like, for example, when I’d go out, I’d end up bringing people back to my house and I’d be, like, “Fuck, now what do I do with them?” And the game’s kind of like social lubrication, a way to get to know people and having everybody having fun and laughing and bonding without any awkwardness.

You said Adam got the ball rolling, but when someone’s playing the game of The Game, what’s something that you personally added to the game?

I think a couple of my favorite things are the Neg cards, where, like, whoever has the worst driver’s license picture or the most wrinkled shirt loses points. [Laughs.] It’s, like, I thought, what’s fun is people laughing at themselves and their own foibles in a non-malicious way, where you’re teasing someone like they’re friends might tease them. Another favorite is the Secret cards, which are basically…it’s a secret social mission to pull off over the course of the game. For example, if you make up something conversationally and someone else in the group believes it’s true, you get two points. So all through the game there are these two layers: the game itself, and the social mission. And it’s a fun layer. It’s a fun form of manipulation, because you’re, like, “How can I get everyone to believe this and get my points?” The social dynamics part is something that, as far as I know, hasn’t been seen in a game yet. There are games with fun challenges, tests, points giving and taking, but where you’re actually trying to execute a social mission within the group…? That’s where it becomes unique.

It definitely seems that you don’t have to be single or on the market, as it were, to enjoy the game.

Oh, definitely not. In fact, we had a dinner party a few nights ago, it was about 12 people, and I’d say about eight of them were couples in serious relationships. So, no, it doesn’t matter at all. Either it’s good to get to know someone or it’s just fun to play with friends. But, I mean, my girlfriend and I play it all the time. It’s fun to go to a party and bring your own game. By the way, you only do that at parties with really good friends who are proud of you and can appreciate that you have your own game, and not with casual acquaintances who are, like, “Why is this asshole bringing his game to our party?” [Laughs.]

Having brought up the fact that you have a girlfriend begs a question about the original book: how quickly did you admit to her that you were the guy behind The Game? Or did she know from the get-go?

Uh, yeah, at this point, I think I’m kind of screwed. I kind of have to say it up front, because if I don’t, one of these things happens: they know the book already, their friends are going to tell them, or they’re going to Google me and find out. Better that I be the bearer of the news. [Laughs.] It can definitely make it more difficult as far as getting people to trust anything you’re saying. I think my only recourse is to be as sincere as possible, because everything is tainted with suspicion.

So what was the original impetus for writing The Game? You’d written in the medium of pop culture quite a bit prior to that, certainly, but…

I think the initial impetus was being a rock critic at Rolling Stone and The New York Times and going to all these shows, which are carnivals of flesh and sexuality, really. But that’s rock ‘n’ roll. [Laughs.] And I’m just the lonely guy with the notepad watching everybody else have all the fun, hoping that maybe some girl’s going to come up and talk to me because I’m writing something in my notepad. And then I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to this show next week and these other shows the following week, if you want to come with me,” and I assumed that was going to be a date, and…I remember once I met this girl at one, and she ended up making out with the guy sitting next to me. And I was, like, “What the fuck…? What’s wrong with me?” So it really came not from a desire to go underground and assume an identity and be an investigative journalist or even to write a book but, rather, to help get over my own problems with women. [Laughs.]

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Holiday Gift Ideas – Books

We covered a wide range of categories in our 2011 Holiday Gift Guide, from Gadgets to Movie DVDs. Here we offer up some book ideas as well.

Steve Jobs
By Walter Isaacson

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.

Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness
By Neil Strauss

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.

The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs
By Neal and Constance McCabe

Is baseball starting to get its groove back? The American Pastime has had a rough go recently, particularly with the steroids scandal that upended many of the great records that helped define the game. Baseball’s glory days now seem so long ago. Yet Major league Baseball has been getting some good news, as they avoided the labor troubles we’ve seen in football and basketball, and we’ve just come off one of the most dramatic World Series comebacks in baseball history.

This book compiles golden age baseball photographs taken by Charles M. Conlon taken between 1902 and 1942. The book features over 200 portraits, and the authors include well-written profiles of the players featured on each page, including quotes from the players themselves. Photos include baseball great such as Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Phil Rizzuto, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. Many of the photos have never been published, and this makes a great coffee table book. Baseball fans will love it.

  

The Avengers: A Celebration – 50 Years of a Television Classic

With “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Thor” looming on the Hollywood horizon, “The Incredible Hulk” and the two “Iron Man” films still visible in the rear view mirror, and the utterly tantalizing thought of seeing all of these superheroes (and more) brought together for a single motion picture written and directed by Joss Whedon keeping us warm ’til 2012, it’s no wonder that most present-day pop culture enthusiasts who hear the words “The Avengers” do not immediately think of a dapper Englishman with a bowler and an umbrella and a gorgeous, leather-clad lady with formidable judo skills…even if they really should.

Fortunately, this is a problem which can now be easily remedied, thanks to a new coffee-table book from Titan Books entitled “The Avengers: A Celebration – 50 Years of a Television Classic.”

Written by Marcus Hearn and kicking off with an introduction by John Steed himself, Patrick Macnee, it’s a fantastic collection which delves into the original “Avengers” series (alas, “The New Avengers” doesn’t rate) and offers a tremendous number of photographs, many of which you’ve likely never seen before. Mainstream America never really felt the same kind of love for the series as the Brits did, and God knows the 1998 film didn’t help the situation any, but if you find yourself feeling giddy as you flip through the below photo gallery (Emma Peel does tend to have that effect), you’ll want to pick up a copy of this book for yourself…or, if your wallet’s feeling a bit light as the holidays approach, you could always add it to your Christmas list.

Then again, I’ve heard reports that Santa is actually an agent for The Ministry, so he probably already knows you want it, anyway.

  

Related Posts