week of 1/28/04

Recommended Diversions
By Jay Hardwig

Brave Combo | Musical Varieties

I’ve been looking for an excuse to glorify Denton’s favorite polka band since I got this gig. (Denton, Texas, that is.) Critics have tagged Brave Combo’s kinetic style as “nuclear polka,” and while that’s a handy term, it doesn’t quite capture the adventurous slap-happy spirit of David Byrne’s own wedding band. While 1995’s Polkas For a Gloomy World had a better title, 1987’s Musical Varieties offers more, um, musical variety. From polka (“Viva Seguin”) to tango (“La Cumparsita”) to a knockout cover of Perez Prado’s “Skokiaan,” this disc’s incredible.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time | by Mark Haddon

Haddon’s debut novel generated a big buzz last year; give it a read and you’ll see why. A murder mystery of sorts — the lead character is driven to find out who killed a neighbor’s poodle — Incident is ultimately a journey inside the life and mind of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old autistic boy who understands logic more than love. Curious, compelling, and quietly heart-wrenching.

The Best of Outside: The First 20
Years | the Editors of Outside Magazine

Every time I’m laid up sick and run out of things to read, I crack open this 1997 collection and revisit one of its fine essays. You want inspiring? Try “Peruvian Gothic,” by Kate Wheeler. Breathtaking? John Krakauer’s original Everest essay. Tender? Annick Smith, “The Blackfoot Years.” Hilarious? Donald R. Katz’s visit with Reg Mellor, the pugnacious Brit who stuffs live ferrets down his trousers (“The King of the Ferret Leggers”). This book is proof that, behind all that chest-thumping adrenaline flash, Outside runs some of the best features in the business.

Hands on a Hard Body | d. S.R. Bindler, 1997

No, it ain’t a porn film — really, I thought you knew me better — but a documentary about an endurance contest staged by a Nissan dealer in Longview, Texas. From a simple premise — whoever can keep a gloved hand on a pickup truck for the longest amount of time wins the truck — comes a film that is hilarious, touching, a trifle strange, and, yes, full of suspense. (It takes more than 70 hours for the last hand to fall.) If you can get your hands on it — try Amazon, Netflix, or your favorite local video store — you won’t regret it.

Liberty Ale | Anchor Steam Brewing

These are glory years for the beer drinkers among us- — every third burg has its own microbrewery, and they all put Milwaukee to shame — but few can match San Francisco’s Anchor Steam. One of the first of the microbrewers, and still one of the best. Bottom’s Up!