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New Yorker Fiction Review #196: "The Size of Things" by Samantha Schweblin

Review of a short story from the May 29th, 2017 issue of The New Yorker...
Yeah, I'm more than a year behind now. Well more than a year. Going to try and correct that over the summer months here, but... promises.
This is an intriguing, sort of tragic story by Argentine writer Samantha Schweblin bearing some of the distinct hallmarks of good old Latin American magic realism, but there are no ghosts or spirits or flying witches or disappearing objects. Just a local rich kid (man) named Enrique Duvel who, in an attempt to escape his domineering mother, wanders into a local toy shop and becomes their live-in employee for a few weeks until his mother comes to collect him.
All short stories should be this length, under 3,000 words that is. Nice, compact and easy to read in under 20 minutes or so; however, having said that, this particular story feels incomplete, feels like a story fragment rather than a complete tale. Perhaps a little bit more about Enrique Duvel and his domineering mo…
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Movie Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor

Who was Mr. Fred Rogers...really? In this 21st century, internet-bound world we live in, everyone -- public figures at least -- seems to be masquerading as something else. That's why it's a huge relief to discover, thanks to the film Won't You Be My Neighbor, that America's favorite and most lovable old man next door, Mr. Rogers, actually was what he was pretending to be: a kind, patient, sincere man who really cared about children and tried to make the world a better place. Imagine that!
Other things you will learn about Mr. Rogers in this film:
Mr. Rogers was not, as goes the urban myth, in the Navy or any other branch of the military...did not have arms covered in tattoos...was trained to be a Presbyterian minister before going to work for WQED in Pittsburgh...was not gay...had a wife and two sons (which is really bizarre to think about for some reason, I don't know why)...started working with hand-puppets on live TV broadcasts as a way to fill in dead air when …

2018: The Summer of Zima

If you were of legal drinking age in the mid-90s -- or if you weren't of legal drinking age, but drank anyway -- you probably remember Zima drifting through popular culture for a few years.

Yeah, you remember Zima...that clear, wine-cooler type beverage marketed in the wake of the early 90s "clear beverage" fascination and right around the time of "ice" beers. What was the 90s fascination with "ice brewing," by the way?

Zima, as it's creators probably imagined it, was best drunk in bars in Miami with sleek glass counter-tops, lots of neon lighting, and people who wore "power suits" with shoulder pads. Come to think of it, Zima was probably best drank in the 80s.

What actually happened was Zima ended up in the hands of either a.) women who did not like to drink, or b.) fascinated high school kids who didn't know better and quickly found out what the word "hangover" actually meant. Therefore, I think it's oddly fitting t…

Sunny Jim's Restaurant in Emsworth

We went out looking for a local bar and grill in which to have dinner, and Sunny Jim's magically appeared. The restaurant is tucked into a hollow outside Emsworth (which sits on the north side of the Ohio River, on Camp Horne Road). It's the kind of local joint where you find construction workers sitting at the bar after a long day's work, parents taking their kids out for dinner after little league games, couples canoodling in the back booths, and probably a healthy dose of trouble on Friday or Saturday nights (though maybe I'm just projecting). Great beer selection and great prices. The ribs and wings are worth making the 20 minute trip outside of the city for. So is the interesting setting -- the restaurant is built over top of a creek.

I'd rather have dinner at a place like Sunny Jim's a million times over a chain restaurant, and I think from now on I'm going to go out of my way to do so.

Rooney's Lager

If you can walk by a beer called "Rooney's Lager" and not at least consider buying it, then I submit that you a.) are lacking in true Steeler fandom, b.) are not a real Pittsburgher, and c.) may not even have a heart at all. Seriously, this is why it pays to take a chance every once in a while, especially on a local product. 
At $5.99 for a six-pack, I fully expected this beer to be one of those light American lager beers that we know and love and which have formed the backbone of our beer drinking culture, but which are ultimately forgettable flavor-wise. Also, the name doesn't really help. Although it is named after the legendary Rooney family (owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and bears some amount of history with it, in a weird way the name almost turned me off. I thought for sure this was some "white-label" promotion done by the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. in which they slap a new label on a six-pack of Iron City. I could not have been more wrong. Rooney&…

Book Review: Runnin' with the Devil, by Noel Monk

"For one thing that goes wrong...one...one single thing that goes wrong, a hundred things go right.  Do you know what I spend my time doing? I sleep two or three hours a night. There's no sex and drugs for Ian, David.  Do you know what I do?  I find lost luggage.  I locate mandolin strings in the middle of Austin! You know? I prise the rent out of the local Hebrews. That's what I do!" -- Ian Faith, manager of Spinal Tap

Though that quote was said by the manager of a fictional rock n' roll band, it could probably apply to any rock band's manager, ever, and certainly could apply to the author of this book, Noel Monk, who managed Van Halen during the first and best era of the band's history: 1978 to 1984.

If you're a child of the 80s or lived through any of the 80s as a fairly young adult, or even if you just love rock n' roll, you have to have at least a little spot in your heart for Van Halen. Their music is such a permanent fixture of radio statio…