Monday, February 28, 2011

Song of the Week: Electrical Storm

Woke up with this song in my head a couple days last week. I wonder why it wasn't a bigger hit.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Sinned Against, by Dave White

Last week, Dave White released the first seven Jackson Donne stories in a collected volume for the Kindle. Now’s as good a time as any to get introduced to Donne, or reconnect with his origins for those of us who are fans of White.

The PI series that make lasting impressions on the reading public are those whose heroes become emotionally invested in their cases. Patrick Kenzie & Angela Gennaro discuss on the role of race in our culture, or whether a loving family is more important for a child than a biological family. Phillip Marlowe fights against corruption and hypocrisy. Even Mike Hammer (what? read on) blasts his way through cases because the victims need a voice.

Even from the jump, White’s Jackson Donne leads with his heart. Still reeling from the death of his fiancĂ©, Donne wallows in binge drinking and chain smoking. In the first story “God Bless the Child”, Donne is hired by a college professor whose ex-wife kidnapped their son. The child has been abused and beaten, and Donne’s rage simmers blow the surface, ready to explode at any moment.

The second story, “More Sinned Against”, Donne takes the case of drinking buddy Gerry Figuroa who is facing eviction. Eagle eyed readers will remember that Gerry is featured in White’s debut novel When One Man Dies.

In “Closure”, Donne helps a man still reeling from the death of his wife in the September 11th attacks.  White captures the feelings a lot of is in North Jersey were feeling in the months after the attack. This is the one what won him the 2003 Derringer Award for best short story.

“Get Miles Away” has Donne meet a girl in trouble. A girl who stirs certain emotions inside him for the first time since his fiance's death.

Need more?  How about "God's Dice", which was collected in a 2005 anthology of the year's finest crime stories?

Need more?  The book is only $2.99.

Amazon has a handy (free) program that allows people without Kindles to read these books, so you have no excuse.

What are you waiting for?  Get More Sinned Against.  Then get When One Man Dies.  Then get The Evil That Men Do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Song of the Week: Even Flow

Good old Pearl Jam. I picked this song because Dave White's a big fan and I hope to review his newly released short story collection, "More Sinned Against", this week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Power and The Glory, by Graham Greene

In the 1930’s, the Mexican government outlawed the Roman Catholic Church. Parishes were closed and priests were forced to marry. Those priests who refused were hunted down and shot. Only one priest is left, traveling the Mexican countryside alone and afraid.

I finished this book a couple weeks ago, but haven’t gotten around to writing about it until now. The Power and the Glory is one of Graham Greene’s "Catholic novels" and it’s not a light read. I mean that both stylistically (some of the early sections are challenging) and content-wise (dealing with the themes of sin, guilt, and redemption). It takes some work to get acclimated to Greene’s style, but it’s worth it.

The majority of the story follows an unnamed priest – the lone holdout against the government’s crackdown. The whisky priest is not a heroic figure. He didn’t disobey the government’s laws because he was brave or especially pious, but rather because he is a drunk, a coward, and only interested in self-preservation. Before the church was outlawed, he was smug, self-satisfied, and slept with a woman in a neighboring village – not only breaking his vow of chastity, but also fathering an illegitimate child. He is alternately torn between fleeing to the north and ministering to the villagers he encounters.

The whisky priest is a complex character. Greene doesn’t spare us from his unheroic side and yet repeatedly shows him performing selfless acts. The priest does not recognize the real value of his actions, nor does he fully comprehend what kind of impact he has had on people's lives. He tends to hear only from those people who have been hurt or disappointed by him in some way. He does not see the many people whose lives have been touched merely by coming into contact with him. Because this positive influence remains hidden to him, the priest does not have a true conception of the value of his life, and remains an extremely humble and self-critical man. He also feels that he can never be truly penitent for his earlier sexual relationship.

His character arc is almost circular in pattern. Every time you think he’s learned something and will grow as a result, he remembers or encounters someone from his past, and he falls back into self-loathing. This helps to lend the novel a very enclosed, almost claustrophobic feel.

Chasing the priest is a lieutenant (also unnamed) in the Mexican army. In contrast to the whisky priest, he’s ruthless and idealistic. He believes the radical social reform enacted by the government will end poverty and provide education for everyone. He is, on occasion, capable of great kindness. (SPOILER ALERT) Toward the end of the book, the lieutenant has captured the whisky priest and holds him overnight before execution. The lieutenant tries to get Padre Jose, one of the priests who took a wife, to hear the whisky priest’s confession.

The political movement to which the lieutenant belongs has taught him to look at people in generalized terms: all priests are bad and all those working for the lieutenant's cause are good. The priest, who proves himself to be modest, intelligent, and compassionate, disrupts the lieutenant's ingrained belief about Catholic clergy. By the end of the novel, the lieutenant has accomplished his mission, but he feels a strange sense of emptiness. Without a target, his life has no meaning or sense of purpose and lingering doubts fill the lieutenant's mind about whether he has done the right thing by killing the priest.

The other two major characters are the Mestizo and Padre Jose. The Mestizo is a half Mexican, half Indian peasant the whisky priest stumbles upon while traveling toward the town of Carmen. The Mestizo promises to guide the whisky priest, but the priest knows The Mestizo is going to betray him. Upon his first encounter with the whisky priest, the priest calls him “Judas”, and he turns out to be just that. Despite his repeated protestations of being a Christian and wanting to help the priest, the Mestizo waits until the right moment to turn him over to his pursuers.

Padre Jose is the only other priest we see. He took a wife, as was commanded by law, and lives in fear of everyone around him. He refuses any request at all to perform his priestly duties, including saying a prayer at a funeral, giving a blessing, or hearing the whisky priest’s confession. Even with the lieutenant’s guarantee of no government retribution, he is constantly waiting for someone to turn him over to the firing squad.

The Power and the Glory is a finely crafted novel full of all-too-real and all-too-flawed characters. Greene raises a lot of questions, but doesn’t give you easy answers. You have to make those judgments on your own. It’s a bit of a departure from what I usually read (see the books label on the side), but it’s good to challenge yourself now and then.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Chicago Code: Hog Butcher

The second week of "The Chicago Code" was another good one.  It followed through on some of the storylines brought up in the pilot and exposed more about our characters.

Delroy Lindo's Alderman Gibbons wasn't in it much, but we learned more about him.  He's not just the ruthless charmer we saw last week, he can also be a major jackhole.  The way he manipulated Antonio's mother into suing Superintendent Colvin was beyond slimy.

We learned Issac's back story and saw him go off the reservation again.  It got him and his partner promoted to Organized Crime, but you just know his hot dogging will put one or both of them in danger before too long.  We also learn more about Jarek's childhood and the burden he carries over his brother's death.

I'm digging the show after two episodes.  But I'm not sure if I'll write about it every week unless I reach "Justified" or "Terriers" level obsession.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Song of the Week: How I Feel for You

I originally picked another song for this week, but since it's Valentine's Day, I thought I'd go with one a bit more romantic. Here's a song released last year by Tony DeSare. I've mentioned him before, but let me just say again that this cat can play, sing, and write well.

Tony DeSare's "How I Feel for You":

Friday, February 11, 2011

MST3K Friday: The Magic Voyage of Sinbad

"They call me Mr. Tibbs."
"This is the most twisted version of Battle Chess I've ever seen."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

LA Noire

Every time I hear more about this game, I get more interested. Check out this gameplay trailer:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Chicago Code: Pilot

Last night was the premiere of The Chicago Code, the new series from Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit, Terriers).  You all should know by know that I'm rarely blown away by pilots, so I usually give shows two shots before forming a complete opinion.

I liked it.  There may have been a bit too much going on that things didn't flow smoothly in parts.  Like how exactly did Wysoki figure out Liam was an undercover?

I dig the Chicago setting.  I dig Wysoki's derogatory nicknames for his partner (Wrigley Field, Spicoli, etc).  And Delroy Lindo can do no wrong as a bad guy.

The voiceovers were an OK way to get through some early exposition.  The last one, of Colvin's assistant, was particularly effective.  I think the best way I've ever seen to get through early exposition was in Shawn Ryan's masterwork The Shield.  The series opens with Captain David Aceveda giving a press conference.  Not only does his speech give the viewers a necessary infodump to get into the series quickly, it also establishes his character as a political animal who has his sights set on something higher than being a police captain.

Overall, I enjoyed it.  I'll be tuning in next week to see how the story continues.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Song of the Week: Letters from the Sky

Recently, I've been listening to a lot of 101.9 WRXP out of New York. I stumbled across them a few months back and they play a good mix of modern, classic, and rock from the '90's. They also don't play a lot of the same stuff that other rock stations do.

Last week, I heard a new (to me) band that sounds like early U2. They're called Civil Twilight and they're from South Africa. The track they played is called "Letters from the Sky" and it's a mix of U2, Coldplay, and someone else I can't put my finger on.

Hope you guys enjoy it too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

MST3K Friday: High School Big Shot

"Dad's new girlfriend is Smirnoff."
"Boss is always in a good mood when the heroin arrives."