Bill Crider sat on a panel with Tanya Huff earlier this summer (Armadillocon, I think). As a “Get Well” present, Bill sent me this autographed copy of A Confederation of Valor, an omnibus edition of Tanya Huff’s excellent SF military novels, Valor’s Choice and The Better Part of Valor. If you haven’t read these action-packed novels, you’re missing out on some great adventures. Staff Sergent Kerr is a believable character. She doesn’t glamorize warfare, but she’s prepared to make the hard decisions to win an military engagement. Tanya Huff hasn’t received the attention she deserves for these entertaining, yet thought-provoking novels. Thanks again for this wonderful gift, Bill!
ECM Records just released this classic concert on two CDs 30 years after the event. Why it took so long, I have no idea. Sleeper features the youthful Keith Jarrett “European Quartet” with Jan Garbarek on tenor sax and flute, Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums. The concert was recorded live at Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo Japan on April 16, 1979. The performances sounds as fresh today as if they were recorded last week. If you’re a fan of this style of jazz, Sleeper is a must-buy. If you’re a casual listener, check out the sample below. GRADE: A TRACK LIST Disc 1:
1. Personal Mountains 41:32
2. Innocence 21:09
3. So Tender 26:21
1. Oasis 55:18
2. Chant Of The Soil 29:09
3. Prism 22:03
4. New Dance 13:57
My niece, Tara, is a Forensic Analyst for the Coroner’s Office in the New Orleans area. With Hurricane Isaac making landfall seven years to the day after Katrina, our thoughts are with her and other friends in the affected area like Deb and Megan. We’ll see if the $15 billion dollars of “improvements” to the levees withstand the storm. But the bigger problem will be the estimated 20 inches of rain that could flood the city and suburbs. Rush Limbaugh made statements that the Weather Bureau (on Obama’s instructions) deliberately exaggerated the impact of Hurricane Isaac to diminish the GOP Convention in Tampa. If anyone had any doubts about Rush’s paranoia and his addiction to conspiracy theories, these latest charges shows how nutty he is. I’m not making this up. Just click here for the bizarre details.
Count this as one of my guilty pleasures. Watching Storage Wars and some of the other reality TV programs on A&E could be considered wasting time. But, there’s something about wondering what’s in that storage locker, trash or treasure (its mostly trash). And the bidding is always fun. Will the winner make money or lose money on the contents of the locker? This season, Darryl was feuding with his son Brandon. Dave (“The Mogul”) Hester was forced to downsize his business because of the poor economy. Brandi and Jerrod constant fought over Jerrod’s tendency to over-bid. And why is Brandi still with that nincompoop? Barry…well, at least the nutty collector was consistently nutty. Tonight, A&E is running back-to-back episodes starting at 10 P.M. Eastern Time. Check the times in your area. If you haven’t seen these storage unit shows, don’t worry, you can jump in watching anytime.
Yesterday was the two-month anniversary of my right knee replacement surgery from June 26. Diane took me out to a local school parking lot and I drove around in the Rogue demonstrating that my surgical leg could indeed press the accelerator and brake. When Diane was satisfied with my driving skills, I took her home, dropped her off and went to visit my Mom. On the way, I visited the newly opened Super Wal-Mart in North Tonawanda. I visited the Library. Later, I drove to the pool. After two months of chauffeuring me around, Diane was ready for me to begin driving again. We played it safe, we were cautious. Most knee surgery patients go back to driving six to eight weeks after their surgery. Last year, after my left knee surgery, I was driving after six weeks. But, of course, the left leg doesn’t hit the brake or accelerator (at least not in the manner I was taught to drive). This time around, we waited a little longer for my right leg to build back its strength in Physical Therapy. So far, so good.
For those of you with BBC America on your cable systems, I’d suggest you look for a new program called Copper. Think along the lines of Gangs of New York. Copper is set in 1860s New York City just after the Civil War. Tom Fontana and Will Rokos created the series. Tom Fontana, a veteran writer and producer of ST. ELSEWHERE, HOMOCIDE, and OZ, is a local hero around here. Fontana went to the same college as Diane (Buffalo State College) and is reknown for his monetary support for local theater groups. Copper stars Tom Weston-Jones, a Civil War veteran and an Irish immigrant cop who patrols the Five Points neighborhood. It’s the classic honest cop caught in a totally corrupt police department scenario. I found last week’s opening episode an over-stuffed sausage: too many storylines set into motion and too much backstory. But, the writing is good, I like the cast, and there really isn’t much on TV to watch. So I’m watching Coppers. If you missed the first episode, don’t worry. BBC America airs these episodes in a dozen time slots. It’s easy to get caught up.
Drive takes about 30 minutes to get started. Ryan Gosling plays an almost robotic guy who does stunt driving and works on cars during the day, but also hires himself out as a wheel-man to Bad Guys at night. Ryan meets Carey Mulligan in his apartment building and you know they’re going to fall in love. Carey’s husband gets released from prison, but he owes some Bad Guys money. They threaten Carey Mulligan and her kid. At this point, Ryan offers his services as a wheel-man to the husband: one big score, pay off the Bad Guys, and then live in peace. Well, you know where this is going. Drive has a high-wattage cast. In addition to Gosling and Mulligan, there’s Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, and Ron Perlman. You might think director Nicolas Winding Refn could really deliver a top-notch movie with this talent. But, you would be wrong. GRADE: C+
When Carl blogged about the recent death of SF writer and editor, Harry Harrison, I decided to pay this underrated author a tribute by reviewing one of his books for FFB. But which book of Harrison’s prolific output should I choose? One of the Deathworld books? One of the Stainless Steel Rat series? In the end, I went with Harrison’s most personal book: 50 in 50: Fifty Stories for Fifty Years. On his 50th Anniversary as a writer, Harrison includes in this wonderful collection his first published story and then adds 49 more stories, one for every year he’d been writing. In addition, Harrison provides substantial introductory material that serves both a memoir of a successful writer and a brief history of the Science Fiction publishing business over the last 50 years. Highly recommended!
To Rome With Love opened in Western New York while I was in Rehab. We finally caught up with Woody Allen’s latest film and came away with mixed feelings. The movie has four couples whose love gets tested. Two of the plots are silly: a man who has a wonderful operatic voice can only sing in the shower. Woody Allen, playing a retired music executive (a mistake), talks the singer into performing on stage…in a shower. Not funny. Another plot, about an average man who suddenly becomes a media sensation, is also lame. The third plot is about two newly weds is goofy, but Penelope Cruz is in that segment so I’ll watch anything with her on the screen. The most enjoyable plot features Alec Baldwin as a Greek Chorus as Jesse Eisenberg decides to cheat on his girl friend with Ellen Page. This is not one of Woody’s stronger efforts. GRADE: B-
Although I prefer Martin Jarvis narrating these Bertie and Jeeves stories, Jonathan Cecil comes in a close second in the narration department. Most of the stories on this 6-CD set involve Bingo Little, Bertie’s old school chum, who falls in love every half hour. The rest of the adventures center around Bertie’s wayward twin cousins, Claude and Eustace. I fairly flew through these discs, laughing all the way. If you want to start the Bertie and Jeeves Saga at the beginning, then I recommend you start with My Man, Jeeves. But, really, you could jump in with this second collection of stories just as easily. Wodehouse brings you up to speed in a snap. Fun, fun, fun! GRADE: A Table of Contents
1 Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum 9
2 No Wedding Bells for Bingo 17
3 Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind 24
4 Pearls Mean Tears 30
5 The Pride of the Woosters is Wounded 39
6 The Hero’s Reward 46
7 Introducing Claude and Eustace 51
8 Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch 56
9 A Letter of Introduction 64
10 Startling Dressiness of a Lift Attendant 72
11 Comrade Bingo 81
12 Bingo has a Bad Goodwood 90
13 The Great Sermon Handicap 97
14 The Purity of the Turf 112
15 The Metropolitan Touch 126
16 The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace 142
17 Bingo and the Little Woman 158
18 All’s Well 165