Saturday, March 28, 2009

An 80's Kind of Week

The 80's. I've been seeing references to that unique American period all week! Whether it's seeing parts of the '84 Games in L.A., reminders that I met and married my wife during that decade, Tequila Sunrise, or having a IT colleague at work share a 1986 picture unearthed on the Internet by (so-called) friends of his:

And yes, he's a musician when not doing tech support. Add to this as the family shopped at the grocery market this evening, all they played over the air was a homage to 80's music. None more stuck in my head at the moment than this song by The Romantics:

It's enough for me to fall back on a memorable quote from 1984's Splash:

Walter Kornbluth: What a week I'm having!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The 'Fidel Castro' of Parties

As she eyed her nine year-old out of the corner of her periphery, the mother spoke. "Your daughter really did it this time."

Dad just closed his eyes. "What happened now?", he said as he opened them and scanned the room for her

"Remember that party invitation from the other day--the one for the first day of her Spring Break?", said mom.


"Not real", said mom while her daughter brushed her naturally curly hair.

This post has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Love Your Indie Bookstore Month

I want to spread the word of Joe Hill's Love Your Indie Contest. I caught this in today's Steven Hart post extolling this. I'm going up to the Mystery Bookstore this weekend and buy myself something--it's been too long. And, this is too worthy and the contest too cool to ignore.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hollywood ≠ Originality

Unfortunately, it's a seemingly well-known penchant of (American) studio execs or unimaginative screenwriters to just re-cycle ideas or movies. Who cares that original content exists out there among a plethora artists/authors and their stories, screenplays, or novels (if they would bother to look or nurture). It must be cheaper (meaning profitable) and less risky for the lot of them to develop dreck and sell the movie/DVD rights. It has to be--why else do they just keep doing it? What other reason would there be for the Harlan Coben bestseller, Tell No One, being made into the French? More than two years ago! All the while we get primed and suckered into more remakes like this one coming our way:

Think this is original? Well, you might if you're in the young male (16-30 years) age range (the likely target audience of the studio's marketers). I'm sure they count on the fact that few in that group were old enough to have seen or heard of this 1975 gem by Walter Hill:

Sure, they updated and produced it with higher production values. But, the essential fact is that it's been done (and likely done better), years ago. Although to be fair, I think Terrence Howard (who is one terrific actor) in the James Coburn original role might work well. However, who among you think Channing Tatum compares well or is anywhere close to Hard Times' Charles Bronson? Not me. I sure hope Hill got handsome compensation for them re-making his early film--and not mentioning it to the moviegoers. Sheesh!

Humbled AND Tagged!

Corey, of The Drowning Machine, has honored and humbled me with a Premio Dardos award in his post today. Being tagged for any award is an honor. But when it comes from someone you really enjoy reading (and miss when he doesn't post in awhile :-), then it's easy to humble any curmudgeon (like me). BTW, Corey's ether contributions do live up to the description (by way of  K-Squared Ramblings) he cites in his post:

"recognizes the values that each blogger shows each day in their efforts to convey cultural ethical, literary, personal, etc. values… in short, it demonstrates his creativity through his vibrant thoughts, which remain innate within the letters, torn between his words."

If I am anywhere near that neighborhood, I'll die wax happy. And, it is a great way to start the season of Spring! Of course, our weather here has a wonder sense of humor--by way of the temperature dropping and rain in our weekend forecast. So, to state the rules of this meme (for which I'll credit Holger Haase):

The Rules are:

1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.

2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

I've checked that first one. Now, to the second. I'll nominate in the spirit of this award meme:
Thank you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Daughter's Quote

Heard this Sunday morning from the mouth of my nine year-old while she watched The Pink Panther:

  "Why do every evil person have piranhas?!?"

Good question.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Renegades

Last year when I attended the annual Robert Crais-hosted panel at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the co-host for that session was T. Jefferson Parker. He was a new addition--RC has hosted festival panels in the past with known authors like Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly. And, those are always one of the most fun, engaging, and informative sessions at each one. Since I had heard of the author, but never read him, I decided to try his current release at that time, L.A. Outlaws, in audiobook (as is my M.O.). I found the book a more than enjoyable read and its characters, Sheriff Deputy Charlie Hood and the female outlaw Allison Murrieta, beguiling. So much so that I picked up the sequel, The Renegades, soon after its February 2009 release date. I don't comment on many books, and I only post those that draw me in some way or manner. Such is the case here.

Parker, like Crais, writes crime fiction about the people, cops and criminals that inhabit the SoCal region--though of what I hear, in his other works he stays closer to Orange County than L.A. proper. In fact during that particular panel, RC suggested to TJP that the protagonist Hood was worthy of a sequel and/or series. Just about everybody in the audience who'd read it agreed with that statement. The other interesting appeal of that novel is that it details the other law enforcement agency here in Los Angeles, one that's not so high profile like the L.A.P.D.--the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Those of us that live here will recognize some of the Sheriff Department's manner and history in both books. That's also one of the reasons the under-rated movie Tequila Sunrise is my annual treat: it is because of the character Lt. Nick Frescia and the Sheriffs [full disclosure: my sister-in-law is a L.A. Sheriff Deputy].

That brings us back to that sequel. TJP follows up on Hood in this work after all of the excitement in L.A. Outlaws, and its after-effects, in his usual easy going prose. This time, the author makes good use of the much different desert terrain of the Antelope Valley and the drug trade connection between the southland and the nearby Mexican border towns. The problem in this novel, however, is that the character of Allison Murrieta is only a haunting specter to what goes on in between these pages, and no longer dominates the proceedings like she did in the previous book. We're left with pretty much Hood alone, without the shine coming off one of the better anti-heroines in crime fiction (though, I give TJP credit here for such a creation). Without her though, he's just not as complex and compelling.

I wanted to enjoy this work as I did with L.A. Outlaws. Like Crais, Parker gets the southland landscape and its moods down on written word with great ability. And writing about the lesser known Sheriffs adds to that flair. But it just didn't click here like the previous book, to me at least. It's not a bad novel. I'm satisfied to have read it, but it didn't hit the expectation it set for itself with the first Hood novel. That became clear to me during the key surveillance and action sequence that takes the lead character across the border. The author builds it well, that is until a he manages to write such a contrived escape (almost deus ex machina-like). I won't spoil it for you, but if you read the book, I'm interested in other opinions about that one event. Lastly, the author leaves enough hanging at novel's end for an obvious book continuation--whether that makes the author, publisher, or reader happy is the open question.

Brilliance Audio published the audiobook with their usual fine production values. Narrator David Colacci returns for the sequel and performs well. Although, if you listened to the L.A. Outlaws audiobook, you get the more than satisfying experience of listening to David and his real-life narrator/wife, Susan Eriksen, co-read that novel.

Bottomline: L.A. Outlaws - good, The Renegades - not quite...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Murder by Death

Since by now you know that I abhor the time change, I had to make last weekend more tolerable. Recalling that the wife and kids awhile back enjoyed Clue--don't blame me, I didn't pick it--I decided to bring out its superior forerunner for family movie night. The oldie-but-goodie, Neil Simon's Murder by Death. We all had a great time enjoying this 1976 mystery-comedy spoof directed by Robert Moore. And, screenwriter and playwright Simon had a grand time in writing this send-up/homage to the classic detectives of yesteryear. The cast for this was also extraordinary in their representative roles.

Peter Sellers as Sidney Wang (as the Charlie Chan character), Elsa Lanchester as Jessica Marbles (Miss Marple), Peter Falk as Sam Diamond (Sam Spade), James Coco as Milo Perrier (Hercule Poirot), and David Niven and Maggie Smith as Dick & Dora Charleston (Nick & Nora Charles). Of course, Truman Capote was at his most flamboyant here, too. They were all fantastic (as well as the supporting characters). I recall first viewing this film at the now long gone Lido Theatre in L.A., and it's still very funny then and now. Back then my favorites amongst the cast was Sellars as Wang and Falk as Diamond. Nowadays, I found that I really admire Maggie Smith in her craft of the character Dora. Her classy, British deadpan wit always has me watching her in each scene she's in. Plus, she's the best thing there, visually, too.

My only complaints, though, is with the DVD. Released in 2001 under Sony/Columbia Pictures, it is more than dated and needs a new re-issue:
  1. not a very good print--newer DVD production techniques and re-mastering are sorely needed here
  2. missing scenes!!!--when I first got and viewed it, I thought there were things missing. This was confirmed by others with regard to the early VHS release, for shame!
  3. flip disc--widescreen on one, and full-screen on the other--'nuff said
  4. the absolute worst artwork for a DVD (especially when compared to the VHS version or the original movie poster)
Come on, Sony! This picture deserves much better!!! For next weekend, we'll probably do its sequel, the lesser The Cheap Detective. But hey, they're still better than Clue...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Madness of March

Am I getting ready for the annual NCAA Men's Basketball tournament? No...well, I'll watch it. But, it's not the subject of this post. It really has to do with our annual move to Daylight Saving Time. Put me in the camp that finds such a move inane. When it kicks in (set by Congress, mind you), it is a system disturbing event, at the very least on the biological level--people's sleep. When you change the rest state, it is very disruptive to those that experience it. In fact, one of most insidious methods man ever devised for torturing human beings is sleep deprivation. Add to this oft-used argument that making the hour change would save energy (as what was put forward by the DOT for Indiana's state-wide change). $7 million, eh? That suffers when examined independently. UCSB scientists actually showed in their post-DST change that Indiana actually spent $8.6 million more each year.

Yes, I'll stipulate that there are likely areas (and industries) of the country that benefit from DST. But the practice is offset when you take into account the negative effects that come out of it across the other areas and industries. Take for example the computer programming and code troubleshooting for the most recent change in Spring 2007. It was no small effort. Add to this, the enormity of its effect on productivity for those who had to patch systems because Congress moved up the date, and those that were late to get patched. The consequences here are systemic when it comes to daylight savings. And if you look at it in total, I'd argue that overall benefits are null. And if that's the case, why put the country through it? The very fact that we all have to physically change at least one setting on one electronic device for every single house, apartment, business, or utility alone is one enormous expenditure. The net effect is negative, IMO. And in the current state of the economy, is it worth it? Think about it on an energy scale.

And, that doesn't even take into account the more odious task of waking your kids the Monday after the change. The energy spent whining alone from that one DST moment would be better spent elsewhere, now wouldn't it? Curmudgeon, out.