The music is really, completely, in charge of us

Though I've been known to complain about good touring bands rarely making it to my part of the world, I honestly do realize that central Florida ain't so bad. There's plenty of good venues, bands that I like come by Orlando - or Tampa or Tallahassee - with some frequency, and while it may not be a London or a Chicago or an Austin, it's fine. Besides, it could be worse, I could be living in the middle of nowhere, perennially covered in snow, a thousand kilometers from the gigging circuit. I feel for the young (and old, but mostly the young) music fans in those areas, who never get to experience a dickhead shouting for "Freebird" every three minutes.

Apparently, The White Stripes feel similarly, as their new film Under Great White Northern Lights documents their tour of a country called Canada. They didn't just play Toronto and Vancouver, though. That's too mainstream. They played a series of gigs across the country - one in each province. In addition to playing in concert halls in places that rarely get red-hot rock and roll bands, which is cool enough, they also did a series of sideshows in each town. Some of these are pretty cool: an unannounced little performance in a town square at lunchtime draws out hundreds of people. Most of them don't even know who the band actually is, but they're excited that something is happening in their town. It's lovely to see the kids get excited for this. Even better is when they play "The Wheels on the Bus" on a school bus, and best of all is seeing Jack White play his guitar during a show at a bowling alley, while rolling an 8. Not too shabby! They also perform the world's shortest ever concert, literally playing one note, to a decent-sized crowd. I guess it's cool that they're in the record books, but if I were in the throng, waiting for ages, watching the bands' casual-assassin-looking roadies set up the instruments, and then the concert lasted less than five seconds, I might be a little annoyed. And apparently they didn't even make the record books. Yikes.

The documentary features a lot of interesting footage of the band on tour: meeting Native elders, talking about the band in that enigmatic not-really-saying-anything way we've come to expect, and there's a decent amount of songs from their shows. 'The Union Forever' is spliced with corresponding footage from 'Citizen Kane', which I thought was pretty cool. There's 'Black Math' - hot damn, that song is ace - and many other songs. Some of the praise that's mentioned in the trailer seems a little over the top, but as a document about an interesting tour with some pretty ace songs, the doc is solid. I don't think it has much repeat-watching value, but very few documentaries do. Check it!

Desired satisfaction

I had some long stretches of drivin' to do recently, so in the absence of an iPod dock in my car, or any radio stations that ignore 'I Gotta Feeling' in America, I went to my local library to get an audiobook for the journey. Now, I'm not saying I'm picky, but I spent half an hour browsing the new releases (first floor) and the bigger archive (AV room, third floor). After much deliberation, I opted for The Guinea Pig Diaries by AJ Jacobs. As I'd find out on the drive back home, this would be a gutsy choice: one chapter begins with Jacobs discussing the time he got into a dangerous car accident because he got distracted while driving by an audiobook about Einstein. Yikes. Luckily, I had no such lapses, and have lived to tell the tale.

In each of his two previous books, Jacobs conducted an experiment and wrote about it. This time, there are about eight different experiments, which made each story more concise and interesting. Most of the stunts he gets up to are totally ballsy and/or fascinating. He pretended to be Shine's Noah Taylor at the 1997 Oscars, successfully convincing everyone except co-star Geoffrey Rush. He spent a month practicing Radical Honesty, which is basically 'Liar Liar' without all the gurning. He also outsourced his entire life to a couple of companies in India for a month; lived for a month closely following the tenets of George Washington (step one: don't shake hands), and masqueraded as his pretty au pair for internet dating.

I only really found one of the stories a little boring - it concerned Absolute Rationality, and was much more long and less gripping than the others. (Though Jacobs, like Jonathan Safran Foer in 'Eating Animals', which I'm currently reading, makes the point that there's no rational reason why we don't eat pasta for breakfast. My girlfriend would doubtless approve.) Jacobs' storytelling is personal and witty throughout, though you do start feeling for his long-suffering wife, who has to put up with all these insane experiments. Fittingly, the final piece in the book concerns a month where he obeyed his wife's every demand.

Whether you like this book will depend entirely upon how you feel about this kind of experiment-based journalism. As long as you're not one of those people who can't stand it, you'll get a kick out of the book.

Footnote: You must (MUST) check out AJ Jacobs' appearance on Seven Second Delay. It was on December 2nd, 2009, and AJ was the first guest on. It was the episode where Ken was drunk, and it's entirely glorious.

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