A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Possibly interesting personal trivia

Okay, when the end of the day reaches us, half of 2010 will have gone by. For what it's worth, here are all the films I've seen in theaters during the first half of this year (knowing that I won't get to a movie before midnight tonight, or immediately after, for that matter), along with my star ratings.

Here's your handy guide to my ratings: * is poor, ** means fair, *** means good, and **** indicates that I thought the film was very good or maybe excellent. Have fun. The date next to each film indicates the day I saw the film in question.

1. The Lovely Bones (January 23) ***
2. The Wolfman (February 12) *** ½
3. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (February 15) *** ½
4. Shutter Island (February 20) ****
5. An Education (March 6) *** ½
6. The Ghost Writer (April 10) ****
7. Kick-Ass (April 17) *** ½
8. Iron Man 2 (May 8) *** ½
9. Sex and the City 2 (May 31) ***
10. The A-Team (June 12) ***
11. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (June 19) ****

Do any of you keep track of the movies you see, like I do?

Wednesday comics tip

Batman: Long Shadows is a handsome hardback collecting five consecutive issues of the Batman comic book from 2009, encompassing the first of many storylines about Dick Grayson, the first Robin, assuming the mantle of Batman following Bruce Wayne’s presumed death. This particular storyline centers on Dick’s understandable reluctance to fulfill the role of Batman, and his initial “shakedown” adventures once he does. Penguin and Two Face are used well as the villains here, especially the latter, who immediately suspects that it’s not the same man under Batman’s mask, a fact that Dick wants to hide from the world at large.

You can pick up Batman: Long Shadows at comics shops, many bookstores, or via your favorite online retailer for about fifteen bucks. Shown here is the book's terrific cover art minus the title graphics and other verbiage.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pull in here

It's been a while since this virtual taproom recommended a real one, but it's time at last to pass on a tip. If you're ever in Adamstown, Pennsylvania (about an hour and a half outside of Philadelphia, not far from Reading, PA), you could do worse than pulling your car into the lot at Stoudt's Black Angus Brewery, Restaurant & Pub.

The Stoudt's complex is fairly large, encompassing a fine dining restaurant on one side (off to the right once you go through the main entrance), a cozy pub and bar (off to the left), and an on-site brewery that probably runs throughout the rest of the building.

My favorite section of Stoudt's is the pub and bar, where you can choose between a couple of casual dining rooms and a friendly bar. I haven't tried the pricier food on the fine dining side of the complex, but the pub menu on the pub/bar side is loaded with all kinds of good stuff (from casual fare like burgers and crabcakes to terrific steak and seafood entrees), all at decent prices.

There's a fully-stocked bar at Stoudt's, but the only beer products available are the ones produced right there at the on-site brewery. Have no fear, though: the many varieties of Stoudt's excellent beers and ales will pretty much suit all tastes. By the way, Stoudt's makes its beers available to bars, restaurants, and taprooms throughout Pennsylvania, and, perhaps, in other states. Look for 'em!

Anyway, I get out to the Adamstown, PA area a few times a year and always make it a point to stop by Stoudt's for a bite, some friendly chat, and some of its excellent beers and ales. Give it a whirl if you're in the area. For those using Mapquest or a GPS, here's the full address: 2800 North Reading Road, Adamstown, PA 19501.

Maybe I'll see you there!

You're outta here

Blockade Billy is a story of quirky, eccentric baseball players on a fictional 1950's professional baseball team, and one quirky, eccentric player in particular (the title character). More a longish short story than the novella it might appear to be at first glance, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the $4.99 price on Kindle.

Myself, I was absorbed by this colorful tale of how a tragic, sad situation can often result when one’s talent, even a great talent, simply can’t overcome unfortunate personal circumstances. In the end, you might feel sorry for poor Billy, despite his undeniably horrific actions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What's the hold-up?

Sigh... I still haven't received the new 2.5 update on my Kindle, despite fairly regularly leaving Whispernet on all night. Anybody out there also still waiting for the update? I'd love to start using the described features, especially the new collections function that essentially- as I understand it- allows books to be organized into folders. Oh, well. I guess I'll have to continue being patient.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bond and beyond

Roger Moore’s show business memoir, My Word Is My Bond (which I just finished the other day), is a decent reading experience, not spectacularly entertaining but never less than pleasantly engaging. If all you’re interested in is James Bond, however, you’ll be disappointed, as the actor's Bond years cover somewhere between a quarter and a third of the book’s total page count.

But the Bond anecdotes aren’t the only compelling elements here. Sir Roger’s tales of his TV years, theatre work, many other movies, private life, and philanthropic work (in particular, his admirable dedication to UNICEF), also do a good enough job in keeping one turning the pages.

My Word Is My Bond was recently reduced to $9.99 on Kindle from a high of just north of 15 bucks. I'm glad I waited... the initial price was a little high for what you get here, but I think it's worth the more reasonable $9.99. One more plus: the Kindle edition includes the many photographs in the print edition, as well as the helpful index.

Reading in the 21st century

I'm now reading my first book across two devices: Stephen King's sports novella, Blockade Billy. Although so far the story's about quirky baseball players in the 1950's, I can feel the creepiness and scares slowly settling in. Something Stephen King-ish is gonna happen soon! In any event, I started this on my iPad- using Amazon's Kindle app- then continued it on my Kindle. Later today, I'll pick things up back on the iPad.

Amazon's Whispersync process works great... whatever device you start reading on will ask you if you want to jump ahead to the furthest point you've already reached on the other device. It's really seamless, allowing you to concentrate on the story and not the technology. If you have more than one device that can access Kindle books, give it a shot!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Puns & Groaners, Part Three

A skeptical anthropologist was cataloging South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal elder, who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the elder looked him in the eye and said, "Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don't need enemas."

Puns & Groaners, Part Two

A man rushed into a busy doctor's office and shouted, "Doctor! I think I'm shrinking!" The doctor calmly responded, "Now, settle down. You'll just have to be a little patient."

Puns & Groaners, Part One

A thief broke into the local police station and stole all the toilets and urinals, leaving no clues. A police spokesperson was quoted as saying, "We have absolutely nothing to go on."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A sub-par Scarpetta

Main characters who are once again sniping at one another and a dull, overly convoluted plot made The Scarpetta Factor score only a mediocre rating in the enjoyment factor for this reader.

Unlike many, I usually don’t mind the unlikable nature of most of Ms. Cornwell’s cast, finding it refreshing in a sea of bouncy mystery series characters. However, after being teased in the previous installment with the possibility of Scarpetta, Lucy, Benton, Marino, etc. finally getting along, I was disappointed that the grumpiness is back in full force, with the exception of a contrived Christmas scene at the end.

The Scarpetta Factor is a whopping $14.99 on Kindle. Definitely wait for the price to drop, or better yet, grab a copy from the library if you're still dedicated to following this series.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday comic book tip

The Batman compilation entitled Bruce Wayne: Fugitive continues the murder mystery begun in the Bruce Wayne: Murderer? compilation, and the story continues to be a fun ride. While the whole cut-and-paste aspect of theses collections still takes some getting used to (only the pages directly dealing with the murder mystery are reprinted from the comic books where the story first ran- five pages from one issue, twelve from another, etc.), things unfold smoothly enough. The closing pages are especially well done, as Batman gets renewed inspiration from the homicide detective who investigated the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents many years before.

The Bruce Wayne: Fugitive trade paperback is available for about ten or twelve bucks at comic book shops, many Borders and Barnes & Noble stores, and online from Amazon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Quick rant

Despite being a big movie fan, I'm usually only mildly interested at best in studio politics or financial issues. But I'm taking particular notice of MGM's ongoing troubles these days (it's essentially bankrupt and trying to find a buyer), because it's starting to screw up a lot of potentially really good films. First, the next James Bond film was recently put on indefinite hold due to MGM's instability, and now, the two films adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit have also been tabled. C'mon, guys, get your act together. Not to sound like a spoiled, entitled American, but decent movies are among the few experiences that make life worth living. Let's get on the stick!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Storm clouds brewing

I recently finished The Gathering Storm, Book 12 in The Wheel of Time fantasy series, written by the late Robert Jordan and young fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson, who finished the book following Mr. Jordan's untimely passing in 2007. The Gathering Storm is the first of the announced final three books in the series.

Are things moving faster and the story growing more compelling due to the new author or the fact that the story is drawing to a close? Probably both. In any event, the supremely entertaining The Gathering Storm jettisons obscure characters discussing obscure issues (something Mr. Jordan enjoyed for some reason) and relies almost wholly on big characters talking about big issues, and addressing them. The sins here are small (an occasional lack of detail, believe it or not, something the brevity-challenged Mr. Jordan was never guilty of)), but the rewards are plenty. An increasingly dark and morose central hero, his worried friends, satisfying culmination to a number of ongoing plotlines, it's all here. Bring on the final two books!

The Gathering Storm will be available on Kindle for $12.99 on September 28, though the earlier books in the series are on Kindle right now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An old friend checks in

Carol Burnett's This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection is a funny and moving memoir that's sure to please fans. More a collection of anecdotes than an official follow-up picking up where her first autobiography (One More Time) left off, there's still enough autobiographical "glue" to make the book feel satisfyingly like volume two of her story. Anyway, as they say in the notices, you'll laugh (a lot), you'll cry, you won't be sorry you came along. I listened to the unabridged audio version, wonderfully read by Ms. Burnett herself, but I'm sure the regular book would be just as satisfying.

This Time together is available on Kindle (or the Kindle app on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Blackberry, home computer, etc., etc.) for $9.99.