Monthly Archives: August 2009


Comedy is very subjective so I’m warning you right from the beginning of this review that you might not find FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS to your taste. The set-up is that two struggling musicians from New Zealand travel to New York City to pursue their dreams. But, on arriving in NYC, they mostly struggle. They struggle to find work, they struggle on dates, and they struggle to make sense of the world. It doesn’t help that they’re extremely nerdy and tend to break out into song at the most awkward moments. Some of their songs are hilarious, but many are, frankly, duds. I recommend FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS because I sense the actors and the people behind them are trying something different the way SEINFELD AND FRASIER tried something different. The Conchords are not in that class, but I admire their effort at this time of bland mediocrity filling the airwaves. GRADE: B

ON MOVING By Louise DeSalvo

Louise DeSalvo’s fine book has the subtitle: A Writer’s Meditation on New Houses, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again. DeSalvo meditates on her own moves and the moves of Virginia Woolf, Henry Miller, D. H. Lawrence, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Elizabeth Bishop, and a dozen other writers. Virginia Woolf’s work changes depending on the house she’s living in. When discussing Percy Bysshe Shelley’s doomed move to Viareggio, Italy DeSalvo says, “I knew that Shelley had drowned in a boating accident while trying to sail home during an unanticipated violent storm. I’d read how a friend snatched Shelley’s heart from the pyre and gave it to his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and how she had kept it with her until her own death.” There are nuggets of information like this on every page. The only flaw of On Moving is the lack of an index. GRADE: A-


This is a picture of a planet that is in a decaying orbit around its sun. In about a million years, the planet will plunge into the star. But until then, we have pictures like this to ponder thanks to NASA.


Ed Gorman wrote: “Chaze is known in pulp circles for his flawless novel Black Wings Has My Angel, which many people feel is the single best novel Gold Medal published during its heyday.” Ed Gorman is right. But Elliott Chaze also wrote some other fine novels like Wettermark. Cliff Wettermark is a struggling reporter in a small town in Mississippi. His health is failing and so is his marriage. Wettermark decides to turn his fortunes around by robbing a bank. The ending Chaze comes up with its noirish outlandishness is worthy of Quentin Tarantino. Wettermark is a book worth seeking out and losing yourself in.


Despite a rave review from the NEW YORK TIMES I find it hard to warm up to Yuja Wang’s CD. Yuja Wang plays with great technique and energy. She cruises through Chopin’s “Piano Sonata #2 in B flat minor.” Yuja Wang even brings life to Chopin’s funeral march. In Legeti’s “Etude 4: Fanfares” Wang’s fingers fly across the keyboard. Her Scriabin “Piano Sonata #2 in G sharp minor” is precise. She wraps up the CD with a spirited version of Liszt’s “Piano Sonata in B minor.” But I don’t sense any joy in this music. Yes, it’s wonderfully played, but it sounds empty to me. GRADE: C+


This new version of WOLFENSTEIN is not as much fun as RETURN TO CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN, but it has some new features. Chief among these is “The Veil” which is an energy field that makes your character faster and more powerful for brief periods of time. The Veil also opens doors into other dimensions and reveals other occult secrets. Nazis and the occult…what more could you ask for? I would ask for a little more fluid gameplay. The action is usually brief, but intense. Then, there’s a lot of downtime while you search for gold, energy for The Veil, and Intel. The designers of WOLFENSTEIN have also added a DIABLO feature of buying weapon upgrades. If you like first-person shooter games, WOLFENSTEIN will amuse you. GRADE: B

INHERENT VICE By Thomas Pynchon

What if Thomas Pynchon, the genius writer of V. and Gravity’s Rainbow, wrote a Private Eye novel? Well, he did and Inherent Vice is the result. Hippie-dippy P.I. Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of real estate billionaire, Mickey Wolfmann (although Doc is more interested in his old girl friend, Shasta, who is one of Wolfmann’s harem). The usual Pynchon riffs on conspiracies (the secret organization “The Golden Fang”) and the drug culture references are here in abundance. And the goofy Pynchon names pop up all over the place: Puck Beaverton, Bigfoot Bjornsen, Rudy Blatnoyd, Elmina Breeze, and that’s just the “B”s. Pynchon even provides a soundtrack to the book:
# Bamboo” by Johnny and the Hurricanes
# “Bang Bang” by The Bonzo Dog Band
# Bootleg Tape by Elephant’s Memory
# “Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles
# “Desafinado” by Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, with Charlie Byrd
# Elusive Butterfly by Bob Lind
# “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra
# “Full Moon in Pisces” performed by Lark
# “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys
# The Greatest Hits of Tommy James and The Shondells
# “Happy Trails to You” by Roy Rogers
# “Help Me, Rhonda” by The Beach Boys
# “Here Come the Hodads” by The Marketts
# “The Ice Caps” by Tiny Tim
# “Interstellar Overdrive” by Pink Floyd
# “It Never Entered My Mind” by Andrea Marcovicci
# “Just the Lasagna (Semi-Bossa Nova)” by Carmine & the Cal-Zones
# “Long Trip Out” by Spotted Dick
# “Motion by the Ocean” by The Boards
# “People Are Strange (When You’re a Stranger)” by The Doors
# “Pipeline” by The Chantays
# “Quentin’s Theme” (Theme Song from “Dark Shadows”) performed by Charles Randolph Grean Sounde
# Rembetissa by Roza Eskenazi
# “Repossess Man” by Droolin’ Floyd Womack
# “Skyful of Hearts” performed by Larry “Doc” Sportello
# “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” by The Rolling Stones
# “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman
# “Soul Gidget” by Meatball Flag
# “Stranger in Love” performed by The Spaniels
# “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies
# “Super Market” by Fapardokly
# “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen
# “Telstar” by The Tornados
# “Tequila” by The Champs
# Theme Song from “The Big Valley” performed by Beer
# “There’s No Business Like Show Business” by Ethel Merman
# Vincebus Eruptum by Blue Cheer
# “Volare” by Domenico Modugno
# “Wabash Cannonball” by Roy Acuff & His Crazy Tennesseans
# “Wipeout” by The Surfaris
# “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys
# “Yummy Yummy Yummy” performed by Ohio Express
If you’re in the mood for a drug haze of a novel, Inherent Vice is the book for you. GRADE: B


Okay, they killed off the annoying cat, but then the writers added the annoying teenager, “Charlie.” So Season Five was a mixed bag. Tonight’s finale might end in a cliffhanger. It would be nice if this final episode had some humor in it. The more I watch The Closer the more I prefer the comedic episodes more than the serious episodes. The ensemble cast has plenty of jokers, Provenza and Flynn, and Kyra Sedgwick can be very funny when given the right material. Police work is grim enough so a lighter touch is refreshing to me. I’d prefer a 60/40 mix of the comedy episodes and the dramatic episodes. It’s a credit to the excellent cast that they can pull off both comedy and drama. Check your local listings for broadcast times.


Margaret MacMillan is a Canadian historian who finds the “rewriting” and suppression of history by governments and political groups offensive. In this slim volume, MacMillan provides plenty of examples of politicians tampering with history. Stalin pretty much erased Leon Trotsky. Mao had his Red Guard thugs silence anyone who dared to refer to the past: teachers, historians, doctors, etc. John F. Kennedy suffered from serious illnesses and took a cocktail of serious drugs while he was President yet few people knew about it. For McMillan, history is a story that holds information about our futures. To tamper with that information is to distort decisions about the problems facing us. Margaret MacMillan has written a series of fine essays that are both insightful and passionate. GRADE: B+


Anthony Boucher was the best critic of mystery fiction, but among living critics you’d have to put Jon L. Breen at the top of the list. His long and illustrious career features many great articles (“American Women Mystery Writers”) and many insightful analyzes of mystery authors (Michael Connelly, Loren D. Estleman, William Campbell Gault, Edward D. Hoch, P. D. James, Elmore Leonard, Henning Mankell, Margaret Millar, and Ellery Queen just to name a few from this volume). If you’re interested in fine writing and thoughtful studies into mystery fiction, A Shot Rang Out provides plenty of both. GRADE: A