Stepping out of the shadows once again, former writer and host of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Mike Nelson is casting his sharp eye on the world beyond the darkened movie theater. Following on the heels of Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese, the actor, director, musician, and writer returns with a collection of more than 50 essays on the absurd amenities of modern living.
From the perspective of his home base in Minneapolis, Minnesota, modern life has not been kind to Mike Nelson. Whether faced with offending views of the towel-less older gentlemen embracing "man's natural state" in the health club locker room, or trying to get service at Home Depot ("Some of the best advice I ever got was, 'Start climbing on the shelves' "), nearly every aspect of daily life is fuel for exasperation. In Mind over Matters, Nelson has his whip poised over everything from leaf blowers to men's fashions to Radio Shack -- and he's not afraid to use it. Whether providing a provocative view of the history of television ("Naming a psychedelic show H. R. Pufnstuf is a barely coded way of saying, 'The producers of this program would like you all to know how very, very much we enjoy smoking rope' "), a heartfelt plea for sanity ("Please stop scolding and shaming me, syndicated human interest stories"), or a venture into the purely bizarre in an interview with his One-hundred Dollar Linen Shorts (bought on sale for $28), Nelson illuminates a world that -- with each bright, clean step toward convenience and normalcy -- just keeps on getting weirder.
In an essay titled "Rethinking the Backside," Nelson writes, "It seems the gluteus maximus's major function is to get tired at plays and make airplane flights seem longer than they actually are. I suggest that we could do without them." Whatever the backside's failings, Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters will give you good reason to put yours to the test -- so, sit back and enjoy it. (Elise Vogel)