A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Another cute piece of wisdom seen on Facebook...

When I got older, I realized the monsters were never under my bed... They were in D.C.

Brief Asides #3

Here are some quick, brief asides (hence the title of this monthly column within a blog) about this or that topic, to close out the lovely month of March...

I've been really enjoying Bosch on Amazon Prime.  Based on the cop novels by Michael Connelly, this is a terrific crime series that doesn't worry about being totally original and just happily embraces the conventions of the cop show and really runs with them.  I'll write more fully about the show when I finish watching all ten episodes, but for now let me send out a broad recommendation.

We recently caught the new live-action Cinderella at the movies.  It's, well... Cinderella.  In other words, if you know the story you've pretty much seen the movie.  But it's beautifully shot and acted, an extra bit of palace intrigue is added to make things a little more compelling for adults, and in the end it's generally a lush, moving piece of film making.  If you're at all in the mood for this sort of thing, you won't go away disappointed.

Run All Night, Liam Neeson's latest shoot 'em up, is a pretty good thriller, no more and no less. I did appreciate the "R" rating, though.  I hate when movies that cry out for adults-only style action, violence, and language are toned down so they can sell more tickets to the kids. Happily, that's not the case here. This is a nice gritty movie.

I'm now working my way through a bunch of graphic novels that collect DC Comics' Suicide Squad comic book stories.  The Suicide Squad is a group comprised of captured super-villains who, in exchange for time off their jail sentences, are asked to perform impossibly dangerous missions that no one else wants to do. It's a fun, bracing series that manages to deepen the characterizations and motivations of characters usually portrayed as purely evil, one-note villains, but while still keeping them, well... villainous..  Lots of good action and black humor here.

There's actually a Suicide Squad movie on the way.  Though an "R" rating is probably too much to ask for, the film better be, at the very least,  a hard "PG-13".  Toning down the violence and villainy too much will be fatal to a successful adaptation process.  I mean, if they're gonna do the Suicide Squad, with its assassins, murderers, and psychopaths, then they should do the Suicide Squad.  Get it?

Season five of The Walking Dead just concluded on AMC.  I thought it was a pretty solid season, with a nice balance of scares and subtlety.  It kind of felt like a big novel, one about whether people so used to living a hardscrabble, impossibly dangerous existence out in the wild can reintegrate into a civilized situation. The answer?  To be continued next season!

Enough brief asides for now.  But there will be more before long.

Some Tuesday wisdom

Recently seen on Facebook:

Some people just need a high five.

To the head.

with a chair.

So true.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The origins of genius

Isaac Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation, the first prequel to the author’s classic Foundation Trilogy, is a modest but enjoyable science-fiction novel, showing the humble beginnings of Hari Seldon, the legendary scientist of the original trilogy.  The novel will probably resonate more if you’re already familiar with the trilogy, as you’ll likely get more of a kick out of the young, slightly vain, slightly scatterbrained Seldon seen here if you’re well versed on his later accomplishments and eventual revered status.

But there are some compelling ideas here for both Foundation newcomers and longtime fans of the original books, often presented in fun ways.  In particular, the novel examines the idea of personal cluelessness about one’s genius, and how it sometimes takes others to fill a person in about one's own potential.  Here, Hari is presented as someone who thinks he’s just a modest mathematician, with maybe a few creative ideas worthy of writing an esoteric paper on, but nothing more.  But once Hari delivers his paper at a conference, the most powerful six or seven forces in the universal hierarchy immediately wrestle and compete with each other to grab up Hari and his ideas first, recognizing their potential to shape the future.  And even then Hari is slow to say, “Hmmmm, maybe I’ve got something here.”

Prelude to Foundation is pretty much a chase novel set in a fascinating, far flung future, with a nice level of attention given over to the ways people live and interact, and other humanitarian concerns.  Dr.Asimov also uses Prelude to Foundation to tie some of his other famous books into the continuity of the Foundation books, specifically novels in his Empire and Robot series.  At this point, that move neither overly complicates nor greatly improves the Foundation series, though it does add a bit of interesting texture, so it’ll be fascinating to see where things go in the other Foundation prequel/sequels.

Finally, in case you missed my previous announcement, HBO is now developing the Foundation books as an ongoing television series.  Interesting, huh?

"Prelude to Foundation" is available in both print and Kindle editions.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Signs of the times

On this fine Friday in March, here are some amusing signs that were recently spotted in front of local bars...

Come on in! We have free beer, topless bartenders, and false advertising.

We do not serve women. You must bring your own.

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

Come in and meet your future ex-wife.

Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that some guy on "Yelp" ever had in his life.

Alcohol and calculus don't mix, so don't drink and derive.

I also just noticed that it's Friday the 13th, so maybe I'll try to come up with some kind of funny bad luck-themed post.  But probably not.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

No guilty pleasure here

In the previous book in John D. MacDonald's famous thriller series, One Fearful Yellow Eye, our hero Travis McGee gained a little self knowledge regarding his dealings with women, developing some insight into why he’s done the things he’s done in his past relationships.  That new self awareness illuminates his actions here in Pale Gray For Guilt, as McGee juggles a new love interest and a case involving a gentle but clueless friend who was utterly destroyed by unscrupulous real estate developers.  Related to the latter issue, McGee undertakes revenge this time out, not his usual “I keep half if I can recover your stolen stuff” arrangement with a client. 

Both the revenge plot and the love story keep the pages turning, with MacDonald surprising me with how much the latter plotline was able to move me.  There’s been passion in this series before, but I never saw MacDonald do genuine emotion and sentiment so effectively.  In the other storyline, the stock market con engineered by Travis and his accountant friend Meyer gets a little dense with detail at times, but don’t worry about keeping it all straight: it’s always clear why Travis and Meyer are pulling a particular move on the amoral suits, even if the mechanics of the swindle get a little thick.

But as entertaining as the caper is (and it is entertaining, despite the technical details occasionally weighing things down), it’ll probably be the connection between Travis McGee and the feisty but secretive beauty Puss Killian that you’ll likely remember most about the book.  It likely captured the imagination of the author, too, as the relationship is revisited- as I understand it- in the last Travis McGee book, The Lonely Silver Rain.  It’ll be tough being patient as I work my way through the series to that last novel.

Pale Gray For Guilt, the ninth book in the 21-book Travis McGee series (which ran from the mid 1960's to the early 1980's) is available in new print, Kindle, and audiobook editions.