Friday, June 28, 2013

MST3K Friday: Crow Pranks Mike

I've always had a soft spot for the movie "The Screaming Skull", the movie that features this host segment.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sleepless by, Charlie Houston

Charlie Houston's Sleepless certainly has an interesting premise. In a world not too different from our own (the novel takes place in 2010), there is a brand new worldwide pandemic:  insomnia.  Sleep being necessary for life, the sleepless are eventually driven mad and die because of a lack of REM sleep.  Initially ascribed to things like mad cow, it was traced to the same genetic markers as fatal familial insomnia.  Society collapsed. People retreated into virtual worlds of MMORPGs. The only hope is a drug called Dreamer, and LAPD officer Parker Haas's assignment is to find and stop the source of black market Dreamer.

Houston is more known for his Joe Pitt series, but I picked this one up at one of the many Borders liquidation sales I went to.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

The book is split into three POV:  a third person following Parker, a first person from a hit man named Jasper, and another first person of Parker's journal.  I'm not sure why we were also shown Parker's notes, but that ultimately doesn't matter.  Parker's story takes a little while to get off the ground, but I couldn't get myself to care at all about Jasper.  There was a ton of leaden exposition and back story throughout the book, but Jasper's was even less interesting than Parker's.  Even when Jasper was captured and was being tortured for information, the prose just laid there flatly on the page.

So much exposition in this book. And lists! Lists of things on shelves, in boxes, on tables, on the floor, and in car trunks.  Lists that take up three or four lines of text.  Lists of things the characters never use! At one point I wondered if Houston was using lists as a way to up his word count; then I summarily stopped reading the lists.

I liked Parker's story and found it twisty and engaging enough, but I couldn't help wondering what a different writer would do with it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Song of the Week: Reach Out of the Darkness

Last night was the season finale of Mad Men. This season covered the tumultuous, transformative year of 1968.  I always dig the music Matt Weiner and Company use during the ending credits.  One of the earlier episodes of this season brought back to the public consiousness the song "Reach Out of the Darkness" by Friend & Lover (how about that for a band name?).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

1776 by, David McCullough

The title is quite literal as the book covers the war from October 1775 through March 1777. We see American successes (the Siege of Boston, the Battle of Trenton) and all too many defeats (the Battle of Brooklyn, the loss of Fort Washington). It's a gripping account of the precarious first part of the war. We learn a great deal about the larger-than-life characters behind the historic events. The American side is represented by Washington, Nathaniel Green, Henry Knox, and Charles Lee. The Brits have King George, both Lord Howe and General Howe, and Cornwallis.

I found McCullough's vivid depiction of the Battle of Trenton to be extremely gripping. Of course I knew how it turned out, but I was on the edge of my seat.

Very readable and engaging. My only wish is for McCullough to write a history of the rest of the war.

Friday, June 14, 2013

MST3K Friday: Idiot Control

OK, that's not the real name of the song from "Pod People", but it's a close enough facsimile.

"It stinks!"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by, Marcus Sakey

Who are you when you don't remember who you are?

A man wakes up naked, wet, and frozen half to death on a deserted beach with no memory of where he is or who he is. He stumbles into a nearby BMW where he finds clothes that fit, a registration card for a Daniel Hayes, and a gun. Is he Daniel Hayes? Who is Daniel Hayes? Why is he here and why can’t he remember anything?

Since his debut novel (2007’s The Blade Itself), Marcus Sakey has shown a preternatural knack of developing well-crafted stories based on provocative “what if” scenarios. He’s thought his way over every angle and down every alley and created a number of rich, impeccably crafted novels. What if you’ve renounced a life of crime, but your old running buddy comes back into your life (The Blade Itself)? What if you survive Iraq but your brother is killed as soon as you get home (At City’s Edge)? What if the man you’re renting a room to dies and leaves several thousand dollars behind (Good People)? With The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes, Sakey has created another terrific hook and written what may be his best novel.

It’s difficult to talk about Hayes without giving away spoilers, and this is a novel where unraveling the mystery is half the fun. We piece together Daniel’s life as he does (we find out he’s a television writer) and follow the investigation into the death of a rising television star; a death where Daniel is the prime suspect.

In the grand noir tradition, Hayes is about choices made and the consequences of those choices. Past choices lead Daniel to where he was at the start of the book, but is his slate wiped clean because of his amnesia? Can he start over and be a better man now that his perspective is changed?

In addition to being a novel about choices, there’s also a great love story. On alternate pages, Sakey will make your pulse pound and your heart break. Marcus Sakey is one of the few authors whose praises I sing to everyone I meet.

Very highly recommended.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Song of the Week: St. James Infirmary

While driving home from work Friday night, I tuned in to WBGO in the middle of a song.  It was a nice bluesy tune with a strong piano line running through.  I listened to the remainder of the song to find out the song title and artist, planning to check them both out when I got home to see if it was an album I wanted to get.  Much to my surprise, Bill Daughtry said the artist was Hugh Laurie.  Yes, THAT Hugh Laurie.  Dr. House.  The song was from his debut album Let Them Talk (2011) and let me tell you, he can really play.

Here is Hugh Laurie with "St. James Infirmary":

Monday, June 3, 2013

Song of the Week: Why Should I Worry?

Whenever I think of Disney's "Oliver and Company" I always remember a behind the scenes video that aired on CBS way back in the day.  It featured interviews with Cheech Marin, Bette Midler, and Billy Joel.  This is pretty much the only song I remember from the movie.