Collins and Crouch deliver the goods, as seen in our latest thriller reviews

Collins and Crouch deliver the goods, as seen in our latest thriller reviews

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One liners from around the web

Because I can't give you a nuanced review or enlightening piece of news every day, here are a few cute one-liners that you nevertheless still might enjoy a little...

If we aren't supposed to eat animals, then why are they made of meat?

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

We have enough youth. How about a "Fountain of Smart"?

He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Always remember that you're unique, just like everyone else.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Walking the walk


You know, I'm not all that big on journey books, and books with lots of description. Probably why Robert B. Parker's snappy, dialogue-heavy Spenser and Jesse Stone thrillers get consumed like potato chips as soon as a new one goes on sale. So, it's saying something for me to report that I quite enjoyed Lee Goldberg's The Walk, a definite journey book and one that's pretty heavy on description, too. On that latter point, I admit that you probably couldn't write a book about a huge earthquake without including lots of description of destruction and carnage. In any event, the description is vivid and gripping, which is helpful to us readers of the let's get on with the story persuasion.

Anyway, it's all quite interesting. After the earthquake hits, TV executive Martin Slack begins a long walk home, past endless scenes of the shattered city, to see if his wife Beth is alive. On the way, he meets people, faces challenges, and learns that, just maybe, he's a better, deeper person than his slick studio job has allowed him to be. There's also a clever twist at the end, but one you shouldn't worry too much about trying to predict. It's more of a bonus hey, that's pretty neat development than something that changes everything that went before (though there's a tinge of that, too).

I also liked the occasional flashbacks to Marty and Beth's past, which serve to give us welcome breaks from the devastation and tragedy, as well as deliver some good banter for us dialogue fans. There's decent dialogue in the post-earthquake scenes, too, but I really enjoyed Marty and Beth's sharp, interesting conversations in the flashbacks.

I really shouldn't say much more. Read the book for yourself and let its well-drawn scenes (some scary, some funny, some strangely whimsical, and- yes- many tragic) unfold in a fresh manner as you click away. In the end, I'm really glad that the Kindle has given a new lease on life to Mr. Goldberg's previously hidden-away gem, and I think you'll be, too.

The Walk is available on Kindle for $1.99.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A belated St. Patrick's Day joke

An Irishman who's had way too much to drink is driving home from Cork one night and his car is weaving all over the road.

A cop pulls him over. "Sir," says the cop, "where have you been?"

"I've been to the pub of course," replies the drunk.

"Sir," says the cop, "it appears like you've had a lot to drink tonight."

"I did all right," the drunk mumbles with a smile.

"Did you know," says the increasingly impatient cop, "that a mile back, your wife fell out of your car?"

"Oh, thank goodness," slurs the drunk. "For a minute, I thought I'd gone deaf."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Don't hold this one against me.

A man goes into a bar, sits down, and orders a beer. As he drinks his beer, he hears a soothing voice say, "Nice tie!"

Looking around, he notices that the bar is empty except for himself and the bartender at the end of the bar.

A few sips later, the soothing voice again speaks up and says, "great shirt".

The man looks around again and, sure enugh, there's still no one around.

"Terrific tie!" the voice pipes up again.

At this, the man, now exasperated, calls the bartender over. "Hey, I must be losing my mind," he tells the barkeep. "I keep hearing these voices, saying all kinds of nice things, and there's not a soul in here but us."

"It's the peanuts," says the bartender.

"What?" says the confused customer.

"You heard me," says the barman. "It's the peanuts ... they're complimentary."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quiet little movie... not


We watched the film 2012 this evening on DVD. It's sort of a mixed bag. The story was standard, by-the-numbers silliness, making me glad we waited for the DVD to see it, but we likely missed something by not viewing the spectacular effects on the big screen. Oh, well, pick your poison, as they say-- a too-small TV screen to enjoy the spectacle, or paying full freight at the theater to watch all of humanity get wiped out while at the same time being told by the producers (with a straight face) that we should feel happy because John Cusack, his family, and a cute dog survive.

Another curiousity of the movie: the big disaster scenes were flawlessly done, but several sequences simply depicting characters driving in cars along a quiet road sported the phony backgrounds of a 50's "B" movie. Go figure.

Anyway, I guess I'm glad I saw the movie. And if it didn't do anything else, 2012 and its spectacular, never-seen-this-before depiction of every conceivable disaster out there (floods, earthquakes, car crashes, building collapses, etc., etc.) at the very least eliminates the need for any kind of additional disaster movie for at least the next ten years. So we should be grateful to the movie for that reason alone.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Back

Oh, well, it had to happen. Yesterday was the first day I didn't post something since I started Kindle Taproom last December. It's been a good run, I guess. Anyway, I'll try not to make it a habit, but I'm sure there will be future missed days here and there. But not many, I promise.

Right now I'm still listening to Stephen King's Just After Sunset, finishing up the graphic novel The Stand: American Nightmares, and just started Robert B. Parker's Split Image on Kindle (after finally finishing the interesting and ultimately quite clever The Walk, by Lee Goldberg, which I'll write about shortly).

Before writing anything, though, I'm looking forward to a nice dinner later this evening to mark the start of the weekend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kindle on iPad!

I haven't been to The Kindle Store in a few days, so I didn't see the March 21 Kindle Daily Post right away. It's pretty big news, and worth reproducing here. Enjoy...

Coming Soon: Kindle Apps for Tablet Computers

We're very excited to let customers know that we've been working on new Kindle Apps for tablet computers, including the iPad. We wanted to give you a sneak preview. Like all Kindle applications, the Kindle Apps for tablet computers will feature Amazon Whispersync technology that saves and synchronizes your bookmarks, notes, and highlights across your Kindle, Kindle DX, iPhone, IPod Touch, Blackberry, PC, and Mac. In addition, the Kindle Apps for tablet computers will feature a beautiful user interface, customizable appearance, page-turn animation, and instant access to over 450,000 books, including new releases and New York Times Bestsellers.

Isn't that great news? Those of us who buy an iPad (I'm leaning toward doing so) will have the choice between using the new iBooks Store being established especially for the device, or our old familiar friend, The Kindle Store. And if we choose the latter, we'll still get to enjoy a few new bells and whistles (like page-turn animation) during our actual reading experience on the iPad.

I'm guessing that Amazon has already checked things out to make sure that its new Kindle App for tablet computers will be accepted on the iPad. It would be a shame if Amazon goes through all the work of creating the app and Apple says, "Sorry, no go". But it sounds like that won't happen.

Anyway, an interesting development, no?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

King-dom come


If things continue this way, I'm going to have to change the name of this blog to Stephen King Taproom, as that's who's been taking up so much of my time lately. And in a rewarding way, I might add. Anyway, here are two King projects I've been enjoying lately:

In the car, I've been listening to Just After Sunset, an unabridged audio production of the recent King anthology of 13 short stories. Excellent stuff so far. Some stories have big scary plots, others are more like literary character studies, most combine both of these things. The 13 stories are read by a variety of readers, all polished and effective. I also love the fact that there's a short musical interlude between each story, lasting about 30 seconds, which allows the conclusion of one story to sink in for a few seconds before the next story starts.

I found Just After Sunset for the fairly cheap price of $9.99 on a Borders clearance shelf (even though it's still King's most recent anthology, I guess it's been out a while), and you might be able to find it there, as well. Oh, and as this blog is still called Kindle Taproom (for the time being, at least!), I should mention that Just After Sunset is available on Kindle for a mere $7.99.

On the graphic novel front, I just finished The Stand: Captain Trips, the first of several hardcover graphic novel adaptations of Stephen King's signature novel, The Stand. A sharp adaptation by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and detailed, painterly artwork by Mike Perkins will draw you right in. This initial volume adapts the early sections of the novel, and will make you want to immediately pick up The Stand: American Nightmares, which continues the adaptation. I'm suspecting that it will take at least four or five of these volumes to adapt the whole novel.

In any event, kudos to Marvel Comics for undertaking- and so far fulfilling the potential of- such an ambitious project. The current two volumes of this ongoing adaptation are available in Borders, most comic book shops, and on Amazon, for about $24.00 each. A good time to use those "30% off a single item" Borders discount coupons!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Marital bliss

Greg and Monica are on their way home from a party one night and Greg gets pulled over by the police. The officer tells Greg that he was stopped because his back tail light is burned out. Greg says, "I'm sorry officer, I didn't realize it was out, and I'll get it fixed ASAP."

Just then Monica says to her husband, "I knew this would happen when I told you five days ago to get that tail light fixed."

So the officer asks for Greg’s license and after looking at it says, "Sir, your license is expired."

And again Greg apologizes and mentions that he didn't realize that it had expired and that he would take care of it first thing in the morning.

Monica then says, "I told you a month ago that the state sent you a letter telling you that your license had expired."

Well, by this time Greg is quite a bit upset with his wife contradicting him in front of the officer, and says in a rather loud voice, "Monica, shut your mouth!"

The officer then leans over toward Monica and asks, "Does your husband always talk to you like that?"

Monica replies, "only when he's drunk."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday night jottings

It's been a busy Sunday (food shopping, gassing up the cars, various other errands, finally getting some dinner at a local spot), but I couldn't let the whole day go by without writing at least a little something. So what to write, what to write? How about something about a movie we saw?

When things finally settled earlier, we sat and watched Clint Eastwood's Changeling on DVD. It's a good film, well acted and directed, about a missing child case in 1928 Los Angeles. The subject matter is uncomfortable, but it's interesting throughout, with lots of great period detail. I'm sorry I didn't see it in the theater instead of via Netflix.

My wife liked it, too, though it was hard for her to forget the opening moments and just watch the rest of the movie. "How could a mother just leave her kid alone at home? she said. "You get called into work, you get a sitter, simple as that. The kid never would have disappeared if she didn't leave him alone in the first place. The kid was like six!"

Ah, motherhood. I kept quiet and let her vent. It was the best course, I thought. Besides, Angelina Jolie eventually did her work and created sympathy even in my critical wife.

Anyway, good film, check it out.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Listen up...

An Irishman, an Italian and a priest walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Friday, March 19, 2010

One for you physics majors

A neutron walks into a bar and says to the bartender, "I'd like a beer." The bartender promptly serves him one.

"How much will that be?" asks the neutron.

"Since you’re a neutron?" says the bartender, "no charge."

Get immersed


Probably the best compliment I can give to Stephen King's huge, sprawling novel, Under the Dome, is that it could have been longer. In fact, I wouldn't have minded if Mr. King's lavish tale of a mysterious, impenetrable dome suddenly appearing over a sleepy Maine town had been presented to us as a trilogy. No, really. The first book could have been 500 or 600 pages long and covered the appearance of the dome and its initial effects on the residents of Chester's Mill; the second book could have been about the same size and titled Life Under The Dome, depicting exactly that as the trapped townspeople adjust to their predicament, and many begin to scheme; and the third book could have been called Endgame or some such similar title, showing over the course of another 500 or 600 pages everything coming to a head. There was certainly enough potential story in Mr. King's compelling, imaginative scenario to fuel all that, to produce a story spanning weeks or even months.

Instead we have this one detailed yet fast-moving book that does all those things over the course of about 1000 pages that cover just under a week in the lives of the characters (things go bad really quickly in the story). And, who knows, maybe it's better that way. Because, even though I wanted to see more of the dozen or so active characters and their various situations, that doesn't mean that a wish like that should be granted. After all, isn't it a sign that something's working if it leaves you wanting more?

In Under the Dome, Mr. King does what good authors should always do: He gives us a good bit of what we expect from a favorite author, but then throws in some surprises, too. Here we get the former in the way of that old King stand-by: a huge disaster coming out of nowhere that, as well as scaring us (and doing that quite well), is really there to reveal the true natures of the various characters in play. On the latter front, I was pleasantly surprised at the skillful, artful way that poetic description, especially of various characters' dark memories and the feelings going along with them, is weaved into the more immediate, concrete story of the dome and the deadly situation it presents.

More specifically, the increasing frustration of the dome, soon seen by many of the town's residents as a cruel cosmic joke inflicted by an uncaring, anonymous outside force (God? Aliens? Government scientists?), eventually dredges up several characters' own memories of cruelty, either cruelty they experienced at the hands of others, or, more sadly, cruelty they themselves inflicted. In fact, these dark memories, often presented in a dreamlike and nightmarish manner, might be the key to the characters' very undreamlike, increasingly dangerous current situation.

I really shouldn't say too much more, as it's best to just jump into the book, immerse yourself, and discover the story's surprises for yourself. But it's safe to tell you this: the big set pieces work great; the more intimate set pieces are just as good; and the characters, both the nicer ones and those of the more villainous variety, are all interesting and complex. My favorite characters were the ones who started out one way but found hidden strengths, depths, and skills as a result of the dome. This happens with a handful of both "good" and "bad" characters, though I liked it best when it happened to the good characters.

My final thought is an echo of my opening one: If Under the Dome seems potentially interesting to you, don't let the size of the book scare you off. Really, like me, you'll probably end up wishing it didn't end so soon.

Under the Dome is available on Kindle for $9.99.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One fine Thursday at the bar...

A man goes into a corner taproom with his German Shepherd. He goes up to the bar and asks for a drink.

The bartender says, "Hey, you can't bring that dog in here!"

The guy, without missing a beat, says, "But this is my seeing-eye dog."

"Oh, man, I'm sorry," the embarrassed bartender says. "Here, the first one's on me." The man takes his drink and goes to a table near the door.

Another guy walks into the bar carrying a Chihuahua. The first guys sees him, calls him over him, and says in a low voice, "You can't bring that dog in here unless you tell him it's a seeing-eye dog."

The second man graciously thanks the first man and continues to the bar. He asks for a drink. Sure enough, the bartender says, "Hey, no dogs allowed in here!"

Using the advice he just received, the man says, "This is my seeing-eye dog."

"No, I don't think so," the bartender says with suspicion and annoyance. "They don't have Chihuahuas as seeing-eye dogs."

The man thinks quick and says, "What?! They gave me a Chihuahua?!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good to see you here

As of this writing, an even hundred people have voted in my latest poll, this time about your favorite reading genres (if you're reading the Kindle version of this blog, you'll have to visit Kindle Taproom on your PC to see the poll and vote). Thanks to all of you who stopped in and recorded your selections. I hope some of you stayed a while after voting, and that you'll stop back again. That's what it's all about, after all: friendly interaction among Kindle users. It's no fun if it's just me talking. I'm glad you're here, too.

This and that


Greetings from Philadelphia on a brisk, sunny (finally!) Wednesday morning. Here's a glance at what I've been up to lately:

I just finished listening to Stephen King's Under the Dome on unabridged audio (mostly listening in the car during my morning/afternoon commute). I enjoyed the book quite a bit, and even clocking in at over 30 hours on audio and just under 1100 pages in hardback (I peeked at the page count in the bookstore), I didn't think the story dragged at all. A full review will be posted soon, but for now, I thought Mr. King's latest was a winner: creepy, scary, character-rich, keep-telling-me-more fun.

It's taking me forever to get through Lee Goldberg's The Walk, but it's not the book's fault. I've just been really busy lately and haven't been able to manage more than twenty minutes or so a night of reading. I'll write something of length about this pretty good thriller- set in the aftermath of a huge earthquake in California- as soon as I finish it. By the way, the book is a dirt-cheap Kindle exclusive.

The movie Kick-Ass will be opening soon, so the bookstores have lately been hit by lots of copies of the nicely-produced Marvel hardback collecting the first eight issues of the comic book upon which the movie is based. It's visceral, violent stuff, about a kid who tries to become an actual superhero (the setting is essentially our world, where there are no real superheroes). To me, it's tough, bracing nirvana, and a welcome change from the PG-13 niceties of most superhero stories. But do yourself a favor and avoid Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s little epic if you're offended by profanity, sex, violence, and all those other hot-button areas. Full review of this book will follow (I'm still not quite finished with this one, either), and probably a review of the movie, too. I'm really curious if the movie will be as visceral as the comic book. I hope it is, but we'll see.

Well, time to get back to my real job. I'll talk to you folks in a bit.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good airport read


Step on a Crack is a mid-level quality James Patterson collaboration, not great but not bad. Co-written with Michael Ledwidge, the story delivers a big, broad caper plot which is somewhat cartoony but just credible enough to keep your interest. There's also a subplot involving protagonist cop Michael Bennett's sad family situation that I found moving but some may feel goes over the top in tugging the heartstrings.

There's nothing subtle or unique about Step on a Crack, but it's certainly a painless and adequately engaging reading experience. The book, the first in the Michael Bennett series, is available on Kindle for $7.99. If you like it, the next two installments in the series, Run For Your Life and Worst Case (both co-written with Mr. Ledwidge and both so far unread by me) are floating around out there, too, in various hardback, paper, audio, and Kindle editions. There are so many ways to experience a book these days!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Free isn't a big deal?

With more than thirty people voting so far in my poll on their favorite genre to read on Kindle, no one has yet picked the "free titles" choice. Does this mean that the wide variety of free books always available on Kindle is not a big part of the Kindle experience for most people? Myself, I pick up a free title now and then, but I don't load up on them, or otherwise bounce from free title to free title. I usually just go right to the titles I previously decided I wanted to read, and buy them. Maybe most people are like me in that regard. What are your Kindle buying habits?

Outdone by the kid

I drove my teen daughter to work the other day, and during the course of catching up on things with her (car rides are great places to do that), she mentioned that she recently saw the movies, Shutter Island, The Crazies, Remember Me, and Alice in Wonderland... all in the past week or two. I was so jealous! Time was, I used to see every new movie, too, and quickly.

Actually, I still do pretty good with movies. The last movie my wife and I saw was An Education, on the Saturday before the Oscars. I saw it so I could say- for the first time in several years- that I had seen every Best Picture nominee prior to the awards ceremony. And that was saying something this year, because there were ten nominees instead of the usual five. But still. I'm lucky if I see one or two movies a month.

Anyway, I have to get out there and start seeing movies as aggressively as I used to. Conveniently, my wife is usually willing to go along with a movie for our Friday or Saturday night activity, as long as every one of my picks isn't a geeky genre selection. Thankfully, though, she has a soft spot for horror and can actually tolerate big-budget science-fiction and superhero movies as long as I don't push one every week.

We did see Shutter Island right when it opened, and really liked it. So I guess I'll try to stop being jealous of the poor kid. But, wow, four or five movies in two weeks. I want that life again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Slow barman

A penguin walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Has my brother been in here?”

The bartender replies, “I don’t know. What does he look like?”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fun stuff


Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a polished, engaging collection of the first six issues of the comic book of the same name, presenting to readers a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek take on DC comics' superheroes and villains. The comic-book series collected here is actually based on the Batman: The Brave and the Bold television cartoon program, with sports the same light, kid-oriented tone. From what I can tell, however, the stories in this book are original creations, done in the style of the TV show but not adapting specific stories from it. The stories in this volume were written by either Matt Wayne or J. Torres, both DC regulars, and drawn by a variety of artists who skillfully keep to a specific light, bouncy look obviously created for the series.

It seems we've come full circle with our superheroes. Time was, viewers like me were annoyed that cartoons always messed up our favorite comic book heroes, making them too stiff, or worse, goofy, and usually saddling them with a stupid animal sidekick for comic relief. But now, probably because we more than have our fill of grim and gritty superheroes on TV these days, we don't mind the occasional light, retro take on our masked, caped friends. At least, that's how I feel: as long as there are plenty of straight-up, fairly adult television adaptations of my favorite heroes, I can enjoy the occasional goofy elements in shows like the animated "Teen Titans", and the overall it's-all-in-fun tone of comic books like this one.

Every story in this collection starts out with a two-page (no more and no less) mini-adventure prior to the issue's main business. I'm guessing this emulates the cartoon series, which probably features a mini-adventure prior to the opening credits, and then the main story after the credits. I'll have to check out the show to see if I'm right about that. Anyway, every issue in this collection tells a complete story (once you get past the mini-adventure), and features Batman teaming up with a different hero from the DC universe. One story guess-starred Aquaman, another Superman, Captain Marvel was in one, another had someone named Kid Eternity, etc. Actually, retro take or not, the book was a painless way to catch up on who's running around these days in DC's various comic book titles fighting crime.

I wouldn't read a steady diet of this type of comic book (a little "Curses, Batman, you foiled my plans!" goes a long way), but subsequent volumes of this title will be fun to read every now and then. Stories like the ones in this colorful, bouncy book are like a refreshing bowl of ice cream after a week of rich, gourmet entrees. After all, the gourmet stuff is great, but sometimes you just want a simple, refreshing treat. This first volume of Batman: The Brave and the Bold fits the bill on that score quite nicely.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold isn't available on Kindle, alas (you'd miss the bright colors too much, anyway), but it can easily be found all over the place for about 10 bucks. The accompanying art shows the cover of the book minus the book's title and other cover verbiage. The better to see the art, my dear!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hmmm, what to read next...?


As of this fine Friday morning, the following are the top five books in the Kindle store:

1) Primitive, by Mark Nykanen. FREE

2) A Bride Most Begrudging, by Deborah Gist. FREE

3) Sushi For One (Sushi Series #1), by Carny Tang. FREE

4) Operation Sheba: Super Agent Series, Book 1, by Misty Evans. FREE

5) Booth's Sister, by Jane Singer. FREE

You know, in light of the above, Amazon should really start marketing the Kindle with a line or two like this: Buy a Kindle, and read an unlimited amount of books for free! Sure, we offer books to buy on Kindle, too, but most of the time we think you'll like the free books just fine. Kindle: Buy once, read forever.

Okay, maybe that's pushing things a bit too far, but Amazon should probably do a little more to remind people that Kindle, contrary to being a luxury, can be a prudent economic tool, providing plenty of free reading material during those tight weeks or months we all experience occasionally.

Just a thought.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kindle to the rescue

As a postscript to my rant of a few minutes ago, most of the book series I mentioned in my previous post are available on Kindle, so if you liked the movie adaptations of the first books in those series, you can at least go to the books to see how things progress, even if Hollywood abandoned its adaptation plans after one installment of each series. The Golden Compass trilogy, all the Lemony Snicket books, and all the Percy Jackson books are only a click away on your K1 or K2. The Spiderwick Chronicles books, however, are not yet available on Kindle. But they look really cute in their actual printed book form, so perhaps that's still the better way to read them, anyway.

The fate of Percy


I don't know about you, but I thought the film Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was pretty good. I mean it wasn't Lord of the Rings good, but what fantasy movie is? In the end, it was a decent adventure that cleverly combined urban grittiness with high fantasy, and, well, I'm ready for the next chapter. But will there be a next chapter?

Hollywood always does this. Trying to duplicate the success of the Harry Potter phenomenon, it launches series after series based on popular book series, then gets cold feet and abandons them when the first installment doesn't do Harry Potter numbers. Whatever happened to letting a series slowly build a following?

The Golden Compass was a good movie back in 2007, but it "only" made $70,107,728 at the North American box office, soooooo.... cancelled! No more installments.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events made $118,634,349 back in 2004. Not bad, right? Sorry, not good enough. No more installments!

My personal favorite among these examples was 2008's The Spiderwick Chronicles. Cool little movie from a popular book series. Young adult vibe, but scary, creative, and wonderfully directed. But it's respectable but unspectacular $71,195,053 box office take didn't calm the nerves of its investors, so no go and no future Chronicles.

Will Percy Jackson be the next to suffer this fate? Probably, because once again, we have a decent but not Harry Potter-level box office take (almost $80,000,000 after several weeks in theaters) so I'm betting things won't bode well for our young human/Olympian and adaptations of the remaining Rick Riordan books likely won't happen.

But I hope I'm wrong. C'mon, Hollywood, let things build a little! Make a little less, or maybe even take a loss (horrors!) on the first one or two installments of a series if you really think you've got something, and give the public time to figure out what you've got. It's the right thing to do, and your financial chickens will eventually come home to roost, too. And probably in a big way.

Just, please, no more engaging, polished first installments of a new "series", followed by a big silence.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Smart guy

A man goes into a bar and seats himself on a stool. The bartender looks at him and says, "What'll it be, buddy?"

The man says, "Set me up with seven shots of whiskey and make them doubles." The bartender does this and watches the man slug one down, then the next, then the next, and so on until all seven are gone almost as quickly as they are served. Staring in disbelief, the bartender asks why he's drinking so much so fast.

"You'd drink them this fast, too, if you had what I have," he says.

The bartender hastily asks, "What do you have, pal?"

The man replies, "Only a dollar."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Good daily newspaper


Since being offered on the Kindle, I've purchased one or two issues of the International Herald Tribune. It's a good daily newspaper, with a broad international perspective. Just be aware that it's mainly a compilation newspaper that pulls its stories and features from the world's prominent newspapers and news sources, including many you may already subscribe to on your Kindle.

But if you don't already get items like the New York Times Latest News blog and some of the dollar-a-month wire service news blogs (or won't mind the slight redundancy in articles if you do), go for it. Like the handful of other Kindle newspapers I've experienced, the Kindle edition of the International Herald Tribune is laid out well, is easy to navigate, and features a generous allotment of photographs.

A Kindle subscription to the International Herald Tribune costs $9.99 per month, or you can purchase a single issue (as I do every now and then) for 99 cents.

Monday, March 8, 2010

You may not have heard this one...

A very drunk man gets on the bus late one night, staggers up the aisle, and sits down next to a prim and proper elderly woman. The old woman clearly is not happy with this development.

Finally, she can't contain herself any longer and looks the man up and down. "I've got news for you," she says. "You're going straight to Hell!"

The man jumps up out of his seat and shouts, "Darn, I'm on the wrong bus!"

Oscar postscript

Congratulations to Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker for their Best Picture and Best Director wins at the Academy Awards! I like to think that I'm a big enough man to be gracious even though my own one or two horses in the race didn't come through for the big prizes in the end. In fact, now that it's out on DVD, maybe I should take one more look at The Hurt Locker and see if maybe I missed something the first time around. For now, though, it's time for bed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pre-Oscar post!

Well, today is Oscar day (Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will preside over the distribution of the gold statuettes beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight), so in recognition of all the hoopla and fun coming up, here are my very own one-sentence mini reviews of the ten films nominated for Best Picture.

Avatar

Stunning visuals and lovely character moments eventually make you stop caring about the boilerplate, by-the-numbers story you've seen countless times before.

Inglourious Basterds

Viewers ultimately didn't mind that they were tricked into buying tickets to a heavily subtitled, foreign language art film once they saw that, hey, those could be great, too!

District 9

Effective shaky-cam mock documentary, top notch in its own right, further pays off with a moving third act about a boy alien and his dad trying to save each other, and the buffoonish yes-man human who finally develops a conscience and spine and helps them.

The Hurt Locker

Perfectly okay story of bomb diffusers in Iraq nevertheless still has me wondering what all the shouting is about.

A Serious Man

If you can take a little of the Coen Brother's trademark late-film artiness and ambiguity, you'll enjoy this funny, well told tale of a guy who recieves every kind of bad news possible and the various rabbis in his 1960's midwestern Jewish community who try to help him.

An Education

Story of a young girl learning the ways of the world is one you've seen many times before, but lovely acting and a few new twists to the old tune (such as parental characters who are in many ways as naive as their daughter) kick this up a notch.

The Blind Side

I'm a sucker for a moving story and a tour-de-force lead performance, but I'm in the minority on this one and feel this just-okay film doesn't particularly display exceptional qualities on either count, elements I realize everyone else is raving about.

Precious

Memorable, tough, take-no-prisoners movie doesn't sugarcoat a thing and only delivers the barest glimmers of hope (and those, grudgingly) to its central character.

Up in the Air

Engaging character study of a corporate downsizer and his dealings with the people around him is bolstered by sharp writing and effectively stylish direction.

Up

Spotlighting two refreshingly offbeat leads- a grumpy senior citizen and a shy, somewhat pudgy youngster- this is a terrific animated adventure that delivers everything one expects from Pixar.

Well, there you have it, my own thumbnail thoughts. And my own preferences for this evening? I'll be happy if either Avatar or Inglourious Basterds wins. The former deserves it for its truly historic box-office run and the latter because, well, it's pretty much my favorite of the bunch. But you won't see me booing if something else sneaks in, as long as it isn't The Blind Side or The Hurt Locker. On the former front, I just don't think it's a very good movie. Of the latter, I like Kathryn Bigelow a lot but I think she's done much better films than the one Hollywood has picked to finally notice.

But we'll all see what happens later. After all, that's the fun of it, right?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday grins

A few fun bumper stickers we've recently spotted...

Born Free. .. Taxed to Death.

Conserve toilet paper: use both sides.

99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

A man without a woman is like a neck without a pain.

All men are idiots, and I married their king.

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

Hard work pays off someday. Laziness pays off NOW.

I love cats. They taste just like chicken.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Offbeat King effort


I enjoyed the unusual Lisey's Story by Stephen King a while back, and thought I'd take a moment to tell you about it.

You know how Stephen King will sometimes give us a big, epic, plot-driven story (The Stand, for instance), but then conclude such a story with a fifteen or twenty page epilogue that's mostly about introspection, melancholy, poetic musings, and revealing flashbacks (as if the author feels the need to give us a more subtle landing after several hundred pages of bombast)? Well, Lisey's Story is like one of those epilogues stretched to an entire book length. It's actually not bad, and there's even a little "plot" in the form of a psycho stalking the title character, but- make no mistake- you're mainly getting the author in that introspective "epilogue" mode, and for the entire ride.

I actually listened to this book on unabridged audio, read beautifully by the actress Mare Winningham, so maybe that's why I'm being kind. But, honestly, as long as you know you're not getting a visceral, plot-driven story like Cell, the Dark Tower books, or even the author's current Under the Dome, you'll likely enjoy this tale of a writer and his demons, and the wife who is subjected to it all.

Lisey's Story is available on Kindle for $7.99.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Superhero bedlam


Based on the DC Comics graphic novel of the same name, the animated direct-to-DVD adventure Superman/Batman: Public Enemies posits a world where Lex Luthor takes advantage of this and that national crisis to get elected president, and then at the first opportunity (of course) manipulates events to make Superman Public Enemy Number One. Being Superman's pal, Batman is soon in the crosshairs, as well.

This is an intense, entertaining hour-plus story with lots of cameos by DC's heroes and rogues gallery, all trying to capture Superman either because of misguided loyalty to President Luthor or because they want to collect Luthor's billion dollar bounty on Superman's head. A sequence with longtime Superman foe Metallo trying to take down the Man of Steel is very effective and obviously owes a lot to "The Terminator".

I bought the two-disc edition of this animated film, because I generally enjoy the extra features put together for the deluxe editions of these films. This particular two-disc set was no exception, as it included a decent twenty-something minute history of the various Superman/Batman team-ups in the comics (complete with psychological profiles of both heroes); and a fun conversation over dinner between Producer Bruce Timm, voice actor Kevin Conroy (who voices Batman in this film and countless other animated productions) and casting director Andrea Romano.

Though Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is a tad heavy on fights and action for my taste, I realize that this fact will actually be a plus for many viewers. But whether you have quibbles or not, I think most viewers will consider such things exactly that: quibbles. Because, in the end, this package delivers a more-than-decent story and more-than-decent craftsmanship, along with many engaging extra features. I continue to be an enthusiastic fan of these periodic "DC Universe" animated films.

Useful, fun blog

A blog that reviews blogs... isn't that a cool idea? I think it is, and not only because Kindle Taproom is favorably discussed in one of its posts. Anyway, do yourself a favor and give it a look. The blog's called The Kindle Blog Report and you can find it at http://thekindlereport.blogspot.com. It's also available on your Kindle for a mere 99 cents a month, the same price as Kindle Taproom on the Kindle. Beware, though... The Kindle Report may get you hooked on more blogs than might be practical. But who cares, right? Writing checks and preparing meals are chores that could always be put off until later, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Epic stuff

Right now I'm knee deep in a bunch of effective genre offerings, all of the epic variety: On Kindle I'm enjoying Lee Goldberg's The Walk, about a huge earthquake in California; on audio I'm well into Stephen King's Under the Dome, about a whole town being cut off by a science-fictiony (or possibly supernatural) force field; and on the graphic novel front, I just finished volume 9 of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead series, about zombies overrunning the planet. All great stuff.

But soon, I think I'll take on a genre tale or two of a more subtle stripe. For one thing, I'm thinking Robert B. Parker's cop thriller Split Image, which just came out. Everything can't be about the end of the world, after all.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More solid Sandford


Mind Prey, the seventh novel in John Sandford's Lucas Davenport series, is an entertaining, fast-reading thriller with a little meat on its bones. I like the way Davenport is- no holds barred- a conservative, tough-as-nails crime fighter ("What about the rights of the victim?" would be a perfectly believable Davenport quotation), yet counts as his very favorite people his sensitive nun friend Elle and his liberal girlfriend Weather. Makes for some good character interaction.

The book combines the cat-and-mouse plot of a thriller where we know who the psychopath is from the outset, thus letting us get right to the pursuit, with the puzzle of a whodunit, due to an unknown figure influencing and manipulating the psycho from the shadows. And amid all the chasing and figuring out, Lucas has to decide whether or not to actually give Weather the engagement ring he's been carrying around in his pocket. In other words, there's lots of fun stuff going on.

You really should start at the beginning of this series (with Rules of Prey), but there wouldn't be any huge harm done if you sampled the series with this lightning-fast entry and then jump in at the beginning if you like it. Myself, I can't imagine someone being a crime thriller fan and not reading John Sandford's Prey series.

Mind Prey in available on Kindle for $7.59.

Monday, March 1, 2010

And the winner is...

I don't usually print mass-distributed press releases here, but seeing as it's Oscar week (seven days and counting!), I thought readers might enjoy the following factoids about movies and the Oscars, provided courtesy of the lovely people at Kodak...

Kodak Presents: Oscar Fun Facts

Why Oscar? It’s uncertain how the coveted statuette gained its popular name. One theory holds that an Academy librarian liked to say it reminded her of an uncle of the same name.

Over the 82-year history of the Academy Awards, the majority of Oscar-winning movies have been created using Kodak motion picture film.

Every week, more than 90 million people watch movies printed on Kodak film.

Each year, Kodak sells enough color print film to circle the globe more than 90 times.

Kodak recycles more than 25 million pounds of used movie prints every year.

In 1889, Kodak founder George Eastman adapted the roll film used in his Kodak camera for Thomas Edison’s movie machine.

Kodak has earned eight technical Oscars from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Kodak continues to produce motion picture film in the same Rochester, New York factories where George Eastman founded his business more than 120 years ago.

Since opening in 2001, the Kodak Theatre has been the official home of the annual Academy Awards ceremony.

George Eastman, founder of Kodak, was one of only two honorary members ever inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The other? Thomas Edison.

Two movies are tied for most Academy Award nominations, each with 14: All About Eve and Titanic. In 1951, All About Eve earned six statuettes; in 1997, Titanic landed a stunning 11 awards.

Who’s the most nominated actor of all time? Meryl Streep with 16 nominations.