I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sidewalk grins

On this fine day, here are a few signs I recently spotted in front of bars around town...

You can't drink all day... unless you start in the morning.

If you're drinking to forget, please pay in advance.

Alcohol!  Because no great story ever started with someone eating a salad.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


This one is mildly politically incorrect, but if we all relax a little it's kinda funny...

A guy walks into a bar and says to the barman, "Give me six double vodkas."

The barman says, "Wow, you must have had one hell of a bad day."

"Yeah", the guy replies as he downs the first of his drinks.  "I just found out my oldest son is gay."

The very next day, the same guy comes into the bar and asks for six more double vodkas.  When the bartender asks what's wrong this time, the guy says, "I just found out that my youngest son is gay, too!"

On the third day, the guy comes into the bar and orders another six double vodkas.  The bartender says, "Geez, doesn't anybody in your family like women?"

The guy says, "Yeah, my wife!"

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Trips to the movies

I caught a couple of movies over the long Memorial Day weekend.  I may have more to say about them later, but for now here are some quick observations...

I thought X-Men: Apocalypse was a lot of fun, offering a good mix of drama with a generous amount of superhero action.  The movie is actually pretty rich and lavish, production-wise, which was nice to see, but fortunately it also never strays far from being fun and fast-moving.  The X-Men franchise is controlled by Fox, not Marvel Studios (home of Iron Man, The Avengers, etc.), so it was nice to see that someone else can make a decent film using the Marvel characters (though Fox had less success with the Fantastic Four).  But the X-men films (the main ones and their various individual-character spin-offs) have generally had more hits than misses.  I thought this was one of the better ones.

Alice Through the Looking Glass was okay, considering I really am not much for storybook characters (this movie was my wife's pick).  Keeping me interested was some imaginative time-travel stuff, as this time Alice utilizes a cool-looking flying time machine to sail through time (which is neatly envisioned as a churning ocean) to save the Mad Hatter's family from a tragedy.  This is another lavish, beautiful production, with tons of interesting details that entertain the eye but don't bog down the story.  You'll eat this one up if you have a stronger affinity for Alice, Humpty Dumpty, many talking animals, and similar characters than I do.  But, honestly, even I thought the movie was pretty good.  Thinking back now, I especially liked Sacha Baron Cohen's character; he plays some kind of Master-of-time type guy, and he's a lot of fun.

Oh, I saw both of these movies in 3D, and thought the third dimension served these fanciful stories quite well.  I'd recommend splurging on the 3D if you decide to see either or both of these films.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Paying for Shrek

So, cable giant Comcast announces that it's buying DreamWorks Animation SKG for $3.8 billion, just as my Comcast cable bill increased by $30.00, with no service changes.

Coincidence?  I think not.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

For geeks only

I'm not enough of a science prodigy to find the following bar joke very funny, but I won't speak for you...

A neutron walks into a bar and orders a drink.  When the neutron gets his drink, he asks, "Bartender, how much do I owe you?"

The bartender replies, "For you, neutron, no charge."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When titans clash

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn't as bad as the many negative reviews suggest, but it isn't nearly as good as it could have been.  One of the biggest problems is that the first ninety minutes are a bit of a slog, which there really isn't an excuse for in a superhero movie, especially one featuring the first big-screen joint appearance of Batman and Superman.

I also felt bad for all the little kids in their Batman and Superman tee shirts, being dragged along by their parents to the movie.  Whether or not one thinks it's a movie of quality, it's pretty inarguable that there isn't much for the kids in Batman v Superman. And that's a shame. The movie is dark, grim, and talky, and laced with a fair amount of intense, disturbing violence.

I think the Marvel movies have shown that it's not all that hard to have both themes and plot lines adults can enjoy while including lots of elements to wow the kids.  It just seems strange that Warner Bros. thought that this two-and-a-half-hour, grimy-looking cauldron of violence, nightmarish dream sequences, and muddled plotting was the way to go to launch its DC Comics cinematic universe.

Positives?  The last hour of the movie has some good action (though the eventual Batman versus Superman fight is not a huge part of it, despite the film's title) and it was fun to see Wonder Woman eventually enter the fray.  And all the actors did a good job.

And, hey, to be fair, one person's muddled plotting is another person's complex, multi-layered plotting, and one person's long slog to get to the point is another person's immersive storytelling. And what I saw as relentlessly grim themes and visuals will be "refreshingly adult" to others. So some people won't be bothered by some of the things that I, as well as many critics, didn't like.

But for me, I think it's sort of a shame that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit a solid double when a home run or even a grand slam (both commercially and creatively) were definitely within reach.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Taxes made exciting

The Patriot Threat was my first Steve Berry novel, and I enjoyed it. Reading about some of his other titles, apparently Mr. Berry's formula is to take mysteries, legends, controversies, and the like from America history and craft them into novels where his hero Cotton Malone and his allies try to prevent something catastrophic from happening if a particular secret from the past gets out. In The Patriot Threat the secrets involve- interestingly, for a fast-paced thriller- taxes and debt.

I enjoyed learning a little about the process that established a national income tax, and- going further back- how debts incurred during the U.S. revolution have gone- for many complicated reasons- unresolved for centuries. In fact, either of these topics- at least in the involving way Mr. Berry describes them- would have been enough for its own book.

To enjoy The Patriot Threat, you admittedly have to let things ride a little and not scrutinize things too closely. After all, using one of the book's mysteries as an example, could a foreign power really bring down the U.S. simply by discovering old hidden documents suggesting that the amendment to the Constitution establishing a federal income tax may not have been properly ratified, thus making the tax illegal (and promptly eliminating the government's main revenue stream)? Knowing our government and politicians, I think they'd figure a way around such a revelation to assure that the tax would go on.

But it's all fascinating nonetheless, and the variety of scenes and scenarios keep the reader engaged: we have action on a cruise ship; we jump back in time to FDR's administration where a puzzle and scavenger hunt is set in motion; back in the present day, we have a North Korean villain and plot that skillfully mixes James Bond-style larger-than-life characterizations and plot mechanics with all-too-real (and often sad) details about life in North Korea, etc. It also helps that Steve Berry seems to be (at least from his afterword), an engaging, curious, and entertaining guy, who doesn't necessarily believe in all the conspiracies in his books, only that he thinks they're... interesting. In other words, he's not a crazy guy writing crazy conspiracy theories. He just likes to write entertaining thrillers involving those elements.

I will say that Mr. Berry- indirectly, via his present-day characters discussing the past- is pretty hard on Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the book, but, well... people have their positions on things. And, to be fair, Mr. Berry never lets his particular biases get in the way of his story. He's mainly interested in keeping the pages turning, via action and plot developments, as well as his fascinating forays into the lesser known details of U.S. history. And, really, I think FDR's legacy can survive a little critical scrutiny.

In any event, I'm looking forward to trying another of the author's thrillers in the near future. So far, I think his work is pretty good stuff.

"The Patriot Threat", the most recent "Cotton Malone" thriller, is available on Kindle, in paperback, and on audio. At this writing, the Kindle edition is bargain-priced at $2.99.