Monday, December 31, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Bugle

Pour a glass of egg nog, take a sip of that egg nog, spit that egg nog on the floor and then pour that egg nog out the window.
If you've been missing The Daily Show and The Colbert Report during the writer's strike (and who hasn't?) you can get your dose of Daily Show correspondent John Oliver and partner Andy Saltzman on the weekly podcast The Bugle: Audio Newspaper for a Visual World.
Christmas to me, John is like a self-assessment tax return. It comes around once a year with the dread inevitability of a car crashing into a bus stop, you always leave it to the last minute, it's ruinously expensive and its always slightly more fun than you anticipate.
It's hilarious and the latest episode is a best of 2007 so you can get right up to speed.
Looking at the environmental state of the world it does seem increasingly clear that it has been designed with built in obsolescence making it very much like a Japanese TV, milk and women.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas with the Sonnenscheins

First off, the Secret Santa thing worked out fine. My Santa-ee liked his present. He's a weird guy, I met him in the subway that morning and for some reason he peeled off across Park Avenue South and away from our office before realizing his mistake despite working in our office for over two months. Anyway, he said he liked his gift. I got the same present I got last year, a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card. Nothing wrong with that.

The family is having a great Christmas. The Saturday before Christmas we went to Dyker Heights to see some very elaborate Christmas decorations. Check them out here.

We spent Christmas Eve in Manhattan checking out the big Rockefeller Center tree. Then we went to Top of the Rock. The views were spectacular and the set up is very nice, much better than the cramped Empire State Building. You can watch inside or outside but I got a little freaked out holding Owen outdoors on the 70th floor. I kept having visions of a wind gust blowing him away.

After that we went to Grand Central Station to check out the excellent train show at the Transit Museum store and see the ceiling light show.

Christmas itself was a lot of fun. I think we all cleaned up. Gwen loved her many princess products and her new Magic School Bus and Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four books. I think The Wife loved her new necklace, 30 Rock TGS t-shirt and boots (later exchanged). I got a pair of slick shoes (later exchanged), a Sidney Crosby t-shirt and some great books. I think Owen liked his gifts, at least I know Gwen likes playing with them.

This was the first year in memory that nobody got any DVDs instead we got a Roomba. The entire family watches it's hour-long cleaning excursions through the apartment. Will it suck up the tree skirt? Can it get over the rug? Will it find Owen's mess under the dining room table? Why won't it go into Gwen's room. Truly, fun for the entire family and Gwen loves having a robot in the family.

Another highlight was this set of small statues of U.S. presidents from our friend, Dave. As you can see, we love it.

Check out the detail.

Anyway, besides the orgy of gifts the family has been spending lots of time together and generally taking a break after an exhausting year. Hope you had a great holiday, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Kinda Totally Screwed Up My Secret Santa

This year I was doing great with my secret Santa gift. Last night I quickly took up The Wife's offer to regift her secret Santa present from her office. It was some hot chocolate and a little thing of coffee in a Godiva bag with some tissue paper on top. It was perfect. But then the combination of Jewish and Catholic guilt that has wrecked my life took over and I decided I needed something else, like a tumbler. So, I went to Starbuck's today and found a create-your-own tumbler thingie. After a short wait behind an older women who was having some problems with her gift card (I used every ounce of mental strength I possess to block out the details) I brought my mug to the regsiter. The barista asked me if I wanted coffee. Foolishly, I said no and explained I was buying the tumbler. The barista laughed and said he didn't even know they sold those. Then I realized I'd blown it. I could have gotten the tumbler for the price of a venti coffee only I would have gotten the coffee too. Then I could just wash the mug and include it with my secret Santa present. It would have topped Elain Benes' Boggle Bar Mitzvah gift on the chaep scale. It would have been awesome but I blew it.

I have a cold; I shouldn't be drinking coffee anyway.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Birthday Little Man!

My little guy, Owen turned one last week. He's a lot of fun whether chomping on his bananas, crawling all over the place and putting whatever he can find in his mouth. Sometime Owen gets overwhelmed by his identity as the second kid or Gwen's brother but he's got a lot going on in his own right. He loves to laugh and check everything out whether by sitting in his high chair sticking his head to see what Gwen is watching or crawling someplace and grabbing something he shouldn't.

Anyway, here's a slideshow of what Owen's been up to.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This May Amuse Only Me

So my company sent out an e-mail this morning saying they had updated everyone's e-mail signature. Unfortunately, most people don't seem to know they have to personalize it. Every internal e-mail I've gotten today has had this at the bottom:

That First M. Lastname, he does it all around here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Everything I Consume: Murder in the Mist

This was a decent enough book. Nice dialogue, a little slow-moving but there was some nice local color. You know what? It doesn't matter because it was a Dell Mapback.

What's a Dell Mapback? Go here. Really, go and take your time. I'll be here when you get back.

Was that amazing or what? Every book should have a map on the back whether it's H.G. Wells, or Louisa May Alcott, or John Steinbeck, or The Bible or a guide to HTML programming. It works for Westerns, Adventure, Non-Fiction, Sports, and of course, Mysteries be they locked-room or hardboiled.

The front covers are pretty good, too. Some are like air-brush porn. Some are just plain weird. OK, many are just plain weird.

Honestly folks, would you rather look at a book of Picassos or a book of these?

The titles are great as well. Here's a quick sample: Fire Will Freeze, The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, Owls Don't Blink, The Body Missed the Boat and Death of a Bullionaire.

What could these books possibly be about?

Here are some Dashiell Hammett Mapbacks, I know Steve's a busy man.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Everything I Consume: Live Free or Die Hard

From a July post of Faith and Fear in Flushing:

…I laughed a great deal during the latter portions of Lo Duca's epic at-bat when Keith Hernandez compared Paul to Bruce Willis. What, you mean like Die Hard? asked Gary Cohen — who admitted during some desperate blowout chatter that he doesn't go to the movies during the season. Between pitches, the announcers tried to remember the name of the latest Willis action thriller, one whose exploding title (Live Free or Die Hard) chewed up much screen space during ads on Mets telecasts not two weeks ago. Gary's guess was Die Hard and Like It.

I can't say why for sure, but that cracked me up. Die Hard and Like It. Captures Hollywood's sequel ethic perfectly. Describes what this road trip has become, too. Anything one finds funny as a 17-7 decision and a four-game losing streak go final must be worth staying tuned for.
The Wife and I caught LForDH last night and it was pretty good. I'm a sucker for Bruce Willis and the Mac guy from the Mac vs. PC commercials was good, too. No one else has Bruce Willis' gleeful worldweariness. He's one of the few people who will always get me interested in seeing a movie. I have distinct memories of all the Die Hard movies except for the first one which I've only seen in bits and pieces. I think Die Hard was the frst movie I can remenber as being marketed as a movie you had to see on the big screen.

If you were in New York in the summer of 1994 you couldn't avoid the shooting of Die Hard 3. They were closing down whole sections of Manhattan for it. But filming ran late and the city ran out of patience. Less and less of the city was being shut down. One night, I was walking home down LaGuardia Place and I walked right through the shoot as a beleaguered women yelled at people to get out of the shot but nobody seemed to care. I looked in the street and saw Bruce Willis standing patiently in the middle of the road waiting for the camera to roll. When I finally saw the movie the next summer I was living in Santa Monica and missing New York terribly. I don't remember much about the movie because I was pretty drunk when I saw it but I learned it's a bad idea to see a movie about water when you really have to pee.

I saw Die Hard 2 a year later after I moved back to New York. It was shown on CBS and because of that much of the dialogue had to be dubbed. You know, the swear words. Often, actors dub non-swaer versions of their dialogue during shooting for the broadcast version. This was not the case with Die Hard 2. I believe a gentleman form the south dubbed Bruce Willis' lines and they were re-dubbed in mid-sentence. It was awesome. This led to lines like "You're not such a RASCAL after all." "I'm just your kind of RASCAL," and the immortal, "Yippy-kay-yay, MISTER FALCON."

Let's all live free or die hard in the coming year, readers. You're my kind of rascals.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Insect

This was an episode of a radio show called 2000 Plus. The stories were about life after the the year 2000. This episode was first broadcast on May 17, 1950. The story is about a scientist who has invented a growth ray and is using it on insects. He's made a spider as big as "my fist", a housefly as big as a "pack of cigarettes" and a wasp "no bigger than a golf ball". His wife objects but the scientist says not to worry, "they're not giants". Anyway, the scientist goes to a meeting at the university to talk about his invention. Curiously, he brings none of his insects. The wife is left alone and when the grocery delivery boy wants a look at the insects they get accidentally locked inside the lab. While they are there they are confronted by a moth (who I'm guessing is the size of a bag of pretzels) and it terrorizes them until the delivery boy tries to escape. He thinks the moth is trying to kill him. We know this because he yells out, "He's trying to kill me!" before he knocks himself out. Well, it all ends well and everyone is rescued when the scientist comes back home. But the best part is that no one, not the wife, delivery boy, dean of the university or any of the professors or the delivery boys' boss who never comes looking for him ever asks the scientist why the hell he is making giant insects and what possible benefit cigarette pack sized houseflies could be.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What the Hell Happened to Star Trek?

So, I'm forcing my family to watch Space Seed last night and I noticed that all the special effects have been redone. All the shots of the Enterprise and the Botany Bay look like CGI. It's very disconcerting since I grew up thinking spaceships were grainy and you could see the boxes around their mattes. What the hell happened? I could Google it but since I haven't gotten any comments in ages I'm counting on you, the fans.

By the way, Star Trek needs to be released on DVD with a commentary by Gwendolyn. Who wouldn't want to watch a show with this in the background:

"Daddy, which ones are the good guys? Is he a good guy? Where are they going? Now, where are they going? Which ship are they on? Which one is the bad guy? Who's he? Is everyone in a red shirt shirt a bad guy? Is he the leader? Why did he hit him? Is she a bad guy?"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Everything I Consume: Aurora 7

It's 1962 day here in the Fuselage…

About fifteen years ago I worked for Bettmann, a large stock photo agency that has since become part of a very large company called Corbis. We had a lot of free time (no web or blogs back then) and every week I would read Entertainment Weekly. Entertainment Weekly loved this book. It got a great review (an "A" I'm sure) and they would recommend it almost every week, for weeks, in their book column. Oddly, I never heard about it anywhere else. The premise sounded interesting: one day, specifically May 24, 1962, in the life of an 11-year old contrasted with Scott Carpenter orbiting around the Earth in his Aurora 7 capsule. Other people pop in and out of the book with several of them meeting (or not) at the climax. I'm sick of all that baby-boomer crap and everyone-is-connected plots now but it was still kind of interesting in 1992. Back then I loved thirtysomething and JFK and I'm sure I would have thought Syriana was amazing.

Over the years I looked for it but I'd forget who the author was or changed my mind about buying it or decided I'd rather get something else but I never forgot Aurora 7. I don't know why. Maybe it reminded me of being 25 and believing it was important to read new fiction. Maybe I like a quest. I spent over five years hunting down Horace McCoy novels before I found one. Maybe I felt it would complete me somehow. Anyway, I finally broke down and ordered it on

It's a good book, even if not worth a fifteen year wait. It has this self-referential way of writing that I find addictive:

He remembered the first time he was the 23rd street subway station. It was for a seventh grade party and thinks about how much the world has changed. The Home Depot and Bank of America, a plasma tv in the diner. Because he doesn't drive he doesn't think about how different the cars look and because he takes it for granted, he doesn't think about the computer and software he works on to create advertising for a credit card that didn't exist then.
Really, it's not that hard to do when you've been doing it all week.

One thing I found ironic about the book was that it uses a voice of God narrator who freely goes back and forth in time showing the future fates of many of the characters. At one point the book mentions Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 space capsule as being "lost forever" but it was recovered in 1999, after this book was written. I guess you can use the voice of God but you can't be God.

Everything I Consume: The Intruder

The Intruder is a 1962 film directed by Roger Corman starring William Shatner as a racist mystery man sent to stir trouble in a southern town that is about to integrate its high school. It was re-released at one time under the title "I Hate Your Guts."

If you don't want to see it after that description I don't know what to tell you.

This was an entertaining little movie and quite out of the ordinary. It was a bit jarring to see so much use of the N-word, especially in a movie from the early sixties. The film was shot on location in Missouri and that's the best part of the movie, seeing the hotel lobbies, drug stores, downtowns and shanty towns of the era.

Roger Corman claims this is the only film of the over 300 he's produced to lose money. So, it's worth seeing if only for that.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Everything I Borrow: I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks

This doesn't count as an Everything I Consume since I borrowed this from my friend Mike.

I'd been introduced to the work of Fletcher Hanks on Mister Kitty's Stupid Comics Page. His comics represent everything that was great about comic's Golden Age: crazy art, insane plots, bloodthirsty villains, battles for world domination as well as the less great sadism and racism. Hanks' greatest creation is the hero, Stardust, whose power is basically, omnipotence. A common theme of the Stardust stories is an army of hundred or thousands of villains attacking America with weapons like tanks or poison gas. In anther story, three bad guys try to send everyone on Earth off into space so they can have it for themselves. The stories have names like, "Presidential Assassination", "Org's Giant Spiders", "Lions Loose in New York"and "Wolf Eye's Vacuum Tubes".

What happens to these villains? Stardust turns them into rats or icicles. Some are stranded on a planet of enormous wealth where they will be unable to lift the gold and diamonds and will live forever in "vitamin-rich air" in a "black night that will last for centuries". How long did it take Stardust to find a place like that?

Fletcher Hanks

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Books Piled Up

I've written previously about my obsessions over my to-be-read pile. Sometimes I think it is like a mania. I know The Wife does. Right now my to-be-read pile consists of 41 books. I like to think I would have made some serious headway if not for Ghost Wars, probably could have gotten it down to 35-38 books. I say this not to impress you but to state that I may have a bit of a problem. At a book a week I'll finish all these books on August 23, 2008. Of course, between Hannukah, Christmas and my birthday and my own buying this pile will grow even if I read them at a steady pace.
Where did these books come from? It turns out I've spent virtually no money on them.

  • 17 are from I've received 46 books and sent out 40 since I joined in December 2005. And the thing is, as I read these books I just exchange them for even more books.
  • 6 are books The Wife has read.
  • 4 were picked up on the street. People are constantly leaving books out on the street in Brooklyn and few things scare The Wife more than seeing a pile of discarded books while taking a weekend family stroll.
  • 3 were bought when I was a member of the Hard Case Crime Club. These are the only books I paid retail for with my own money and weren't first read by somebody else. (I sound like a White House press secretary with all these qualifiers.)
  • 3 were bought used.
  • 3 are hand-me-downs from my father-in-law. He gives me lots of books but these are the few I actually want to read. Mostly, they sit unwanted on
  • 3 were gifts.
  • 2 were bought on a gift card I got for my birthday in January. I picked these books out of all the ones at Barnes & Noble and still they've been sitting around for more than six months.
I'll check in on this later to see if I've made any progress.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NFL TV Distribution Maps

I love this website. It tells what NFL games are being telecast all over the country. I like it not just to find out what games are being shown in New York (Washington at Jets at 1 PM and the big Patriot-Colt game at 4. Since the Jets are at home there's no Fox game at 1 even though the Giants are off. The NFL won't show a game against a home game which sucks if you live in New York where we have two teams. This rule is particularly annoying since a)The home teams always sell out and b)I never go to football games. I should mention I will be at a christening on Sunday and couldn't watch the game anyway.) but these maps are highly entertaining in their own right.

This week there's no non-HD game but it's always fun to see what will be the one none-HD CBS game. Sadly, it's The Wife's beloved Cleveland Browns almost every week. Is there any excuse for not having every game in HD? I bought my HDTV for sports and I can't even watch non-HD sports at this point. Spend the money for the equipment, CBS!

I like finding oddball scheduling to show hometown heroes. Austin will get the Carolina/Tennessee game to see Vince Young even though most of the rest of Texas sees Green Bay vs. Kansas City and southern Mississippi gets to see local boy Brett Favre.

Why is Miami seeing Green Bay/Kansas City instead of the Tampa Bay game? Kansas City isn't even a divisional rival of the Dolphins. Are they that alienated from northern Florida?

Next week's Patriot/Colt game will be shown nationally except in Houston (playing at Oakland) and Cleveland which is hosting Seattle on Fox. Sorry, guys. Thanks to the handy chart at the bottom we can see northern California came to their senses and will get the big game instead of the Raiders game which is expected to be blacked out. You could really piss some people off in the Bay Area by buying the remaining tickets and forcing them to show the local game!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Golden Compass

I was reading this book on the subway when a woman started talking to me about what a great book it was. She felt it was much better than Harry Potter and the writing was fantastic. No one had ever done that to me before but I think I would have done the same thing if I saw someone else reading this book.

I loved The Golden Compass. I've never been a big fantasy fan — I read the first Harry Potter and stopped there - but this kept me hooked from start to finish. I was even sneaking to the bathroom to sneak in some reading. It's the first part of the His Dark Materials trilogy and begins the story of Lyra, a twelve-year old girl in Oxford in an alternative universe where everyone has an animal daemon. She begins and epic quest involving disappearing children, talking bears, her mysterious uncle and an even more mysterious woman. The less you know, probably the better so forget I told you even that. Except that Iorek Byrnison is now my fifth favorite fictional character.

The writing is really first rate. The fictional world felt real to me and the action scenes were thrilling. There's a serious theme of the danger of organized religion and government's control over the truth. In fact, the controversy over whether this book is anti-religion was the first place I heard of it. I think this book is more about how any giant organization bends the truth and performs awful acts to support its own agenda but I have two books to go.

This series is so popular it has it's own Wiki, which is pretty cool.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Certain Common Themes in the early Fantastic Four

For the past few months I've been reading old Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Fantastic Four comic books to my daughter. I was glad to share one of the crown jewels of American literature with Gwendolyn but I noticed certain, shall I say, recurrent themes in these stories. In order to make sure I wasn't just imagining them I decided to make a chart of how often certain things occured. Please click on the chart below, it's a bit easier to read that way.
We can see how the classic Jack Kirby splash page of a crazy Reed Richards machine doesn't show up for quite awhile. Notice how the early themes of Ben transforming back to human form and his fights with Johnny slowly fade away. Reed is always there to catch a falling Human Torch until the FF's change of direction with issue #30. And Stan and Jack never got tired of a final panel of the whole team or the word "Bah!"

Well, enjoy. God know I wasted plenty of time on this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Everything I Consume: Fright

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed reading Cornell Woolrich. He's just so creepy. All his novels and stories seem to involve questions of sanity and what really happened. Characters are always trapped with no way out. Often main characters are suspected of a crime and they're pretty sure they didn't do it but not totally. And the books end with a cruelly ironic twist that could put The Twilight Zone to shame. In The Bride Wore Black the main characters husband is killed on their wedding day. She spends years chasing down the men she believes responsible for his death only to find out at the end it was an accident and she's been killing the wrong people. That's cold and I think you have to be pretty cold to write something like that.

Woolrich's writing could be a little stiff and over-the-top with the plot proceeding proceeding at a glacial pace. I admit I was getting a little tired of Fright as it reached it's climax. Sometimes he seems like he's padding and it seems a little weird out of context but on the whole his books are very suspenseful. For example:

Death of a chocolate bar. Death and burial of a chocolate bar. Death of a man? What was the difference? Death was death, always death.
Woolrich's books inspired some great movies like Rear Window, Phantom Lady and The Leopard Man.

Anyway, back to Fright. It's about a man who sleeps with woman who then blackmails him. She keeps coming back for more until on his wedding day, he's taken all he can take and kills her. But things don't get any better as his fear of getting caught takes over and destroys his life. I liked it and recommend it but it's not as good as the best Woolrich like Black Alibi, Black Path of Fear and Deadline at Dawn. The main character just gets worse and worse and it pained me to read about how awful he made the life of his wife.

Everything I Consume: The Dain Curse

This movie dates from the late 1970s, the Golden Age of TV mini-series. It's actually three episodes coming in at about five hours. I'm a huge Dashiell Hammett fan but had never gotten around to seeing it for one reason or another. While it wasn't as bad as many of the commenters on Netflix think ("borderline horrible due to a weak script, hammy overacting/miscasting and a mind-bogglingly AWFUL jazz score that never shuts up") it's not that bad either. I'll admit some of the acting is pretty bad and the lead of Gabrielle is horribly miscast. Also, I wasn't crazy about giving the Continental Op a name and setting the story in New York instead of San Francisco. And there's a lot of padding. But on the whole it's kind of nice in a meandering, casual viewing sort of way. The crazy plot had enough going on to keep me interested and the sets were awesome.

The Wife likes to point out how the hair often gives away the year a movie is made even if it's set in the past or future. This movie has some severe 1970s hair.

Here's a cool page of old Dain Curse covers.

I almost forgot there are some nice touches for the Hammett fan. One of the character's last name is Collinson (Peter Collinson was an early nom de plume of Hammett) at one point a detective asks the Op, "That girl in Poisonville trusted you, didn't she?" a reference to Red Harvest.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fearless Predictions: League Championship Series

I went 3-1 in the divisionals (thanks, Cubs).

Only a fool would bet against the Rockies at this point, that's the easy one. The ALCS looks like a classic matchup but the Red Sox were clearly the best team in baseball this year and I have to go with them. But since I'll be rooting for the Indians it's a win-win situation.

I guess that's one fearless and one feckless prediction.

Everything I Consume: Ghost Wars

This book was like Afghanistan itself. I struggled mightily and picked up the book in stops and starts but, after much longer than expected, I finished it. Ghost Wars is the history of American involvement in Afghanistan from just before the 1979 Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001. It's a story of failed opportunites and general half-assing it by the U.S. government. Despite enormous resources and dedication the government never comitted to actual action agains the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Unreliable foreign govenments like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were consistantly used to acheive American objectives instead of making a serious commitment. There was always something more important to do. After giving a detailed picture of Afghan politics the focus shifts away from Afghanistan to Washington after the Taliban takes over which is pretty telling. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 8, 2007

That can't be bigger that 1.25 square miles!

I hate to bag on the American Museum of Natural History, which is the greatest of all museums, but I was at the Mythic Creatures exhibit this weekend and the caption for the kraken stated that it was one of the largest of imaginary creatures at perhaps 1.5 square miles.

This is classic example museum speak in trying to exaggerate something to perk interest in it. How can you possibly scale imaginary creatures? It can't be verified. They exist in people's imaginations. And maybe one sailor was imagining a 1.75 square mile kraken while another was imaging a 1 square mile kraken. You know what? I just imagined a chupacabra three miles high. You think that's big? I'm imagining a kappa that carries the entire universe in the bowl of water on his head. My imaginary creatures dwarf the puny kraken!

Did sailors even try to put any kind of size descriptor on a kraken? I bet they said something like, "large enough to swallow this vessel whole" or "stretching from there to there."

I hate this sort of thing. If you can't get excited looking at the giant kraken model or realizing that explorers like Christopher Columbus and Henry Hudson believed in mermaids and sea monsters or by looking at beautiful old maps filled with pictures of krakens, sea serpents and other creatures some silly made up fact about how big a fake animal is won't do it for you.

Anyway, Mythic Creatures is a great exhibition and everyone should see it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Everything I Consume: R. Kelly: Trapped in the Closet: Chapters 13-22

This was a letdown after the first twelve chapters of Trapped. It just didn't have the audacity and energy of the original. The part in the restaurant (the one where you can smoke cigarettes and cigars!) felt endless and the main Sylvester character has been toned down, sort of like the way they make regular characters more likable over time on sitcoms. The worst part is since it ended on a cliffhanger I'm just going to come back for more.

Some of you sequel haters (and I know you're out there) might say all sequels are worse than the original so here's a partial list of sequels that are better than the original:

  • Aliens
  • Empire Strikes Back
  • Bourne Supremacy
  • Superman II
  • Evil Dead 2
This is a rip-off of my brother's obsession. Really, he can go on for hours about sequels that are better than the original movie.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Everything I Consume: Kill Now, Pay Later

This was another Hard Case reprint. Kudos on a wonderfully lurid cover, yowza! I got a lot of stares of the subway for reading this one. The rest of the book wasn't so hot. The writer just seemed to keep throwing out plot and hoping it would stick, much like the women in the book who keep throwing themselves at detective Ben Gates. I mean, he doesn't even try with these women and they're all over him.

The story starts with Gates being drugged at a wedding he is working and involves blackmail, dirty movies, hidden identities and arson. It's a big mess and by the end we're not really sure how we got there. The beginning reminded me of The Gutting of Couffignal and the end reminder me of Rebecca, which are two better stories. So, a servicable read that I was able to trade quickly on

My favorite part of the book was the blurb by Brett Haliday, creator of the Michael Shayne series. Author Robert Terrall was one of the ghost writers of the Michael Shayne series at this time so he may have blurbed his own book. Good for you, Robert!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Al Oerter

Al Oerter died Monday and I think a little attention must be paid. He's been one of my heroes since I saw a TV show about him when I was a kid. Oerter won the Olympic gold medal in the discus four times in a row. In 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968. Was there anyone, anywhere in the world who was the best at what they were doing in 1956 and still in 1968? All four times he wasn't favored, was coming back from an injury and he set an Olympic record. Twelve years after his last gold medal he tried out for the 1980 Olympics and made the team as an alternate but didn't go because of the boycott. Four years later, the 47-year old Oerter was trying out for the Olympic team when he tore his calf muscle before the finals. Less than a year earlier he had a throw that would have won the gold medal if he had been able to duplicate it in the Olympics.

Oerter was one of the old-school Olympic athletes. He worked in computers at Grumman Aircraft during his athletic career. This is a great quote from the New York Times obituary:

In his 60s, after a visit to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, he lamented what he saw as a culture of professionalism entering track and field. “I saw athletes in their 30’s training full time,” he said. “That’s their life. What happened to the rest of it? I’m happy that I had a normal life, with a career and family. That makes a person whole.”

After Oerter retired he became an artist often using a discus to create his paintings. That last part is kind of weird but good for him.

Here's a good overview of Oerter and his career. He sounds like he was a nice guy, too.

Happy Shemini Atzerat!

My daughter goes to Jewish pre-school and its closed tomorrow for Shemini Atzerat. It will be the third week since school started that she's off for two and a half days because of Jewish holidays.

Now, I know most of my readers aren't Jewish and I'd love to get you up to speed but I can't because I've never heard of Shemini Atzerat, either. Forty years of being Jewish and I've never had a day off for this holiday. No one has ever made my feel guilty about not going to Synagogue for it, nobody made fun of me for not knowing what it was in Hebrew School, nothing.

Here's the story from

God grows nostalgic, as it were, and pensive. The people of Israel will not come together again in such numbers until Passover six months hence. God will soon miss the sounds of music and pleasure and the unity of the people. The Torah decreed, therefore, an eighth day of assembly, a final feast/holy day. … this day, Shemini Atzeret, is a reprise of the celebration of Sukkot but without any of the rituals. The message is that all the rituals and symbolic language are important but ultimately they remain just symbols.
If you can't read between the lines this is a holiday because there are so many freaking Jewish holidays this time of year. In other words, it's Holiday Day. Now, in Israel where they don't have time to screw around, Shemini Atzerat is merged into Simchat Torah (which is a legitimate holiday). But here in Brooklyn, not only is it a seperate holiday but Gwen's pre-school closes for Erav Shemini Atzerat aka Shemini Atzerat Eve aka Holiday Day Eve! Do Christians celebrate Chistmas Eve Eve? What about the month of pre-Ramadan for the Muslims?

Anyway, I'm outraged, as always.

Fearless Predictions: Baseball Divisional Series

If there's anything I can teach you, America, it's that if you stay you past your bedtime to see a sporting event don't turn it off in the top of the 13th inning when the visiting team scores two runs because the home team might score three. Why didn't somebody tell me this two days ago?

Rockies, Cubs, Indians, Red Sox.

Fearless Predictions Record:1-1

Monday, October 1, 2007

An Amazon Offer Few Will Take

My Work Neighbor Part 2

Just overheard talking to herself, "I hate my haircut, I hate it. I'm so pissed."

Total, Ultimate, Glorious, Victory

From the original British movie of Fever Pitch:
Paul Ashworth: [after Robert missed the goal at the end of the game] If you had to choose between wining this afternoon and Arsenal winning tomorrow night, what would you go for?
Robert: Tomorrow night of course!
Paul Ashworth: There you go then.
Robert: What, you're telling me, Arsenal are gonna win two nil at Anfield?
Paul Ashworth: I can't promise, can I? Well there's a, chance isn't there? You've done your bit, you've missed the penalty. If that's what it takes then it'll be worth it.
Robert: Yeah, course.

Well, I would have taken seeing the Mets in the playoffs over a fantasy baseball title but victory is mine. Hats off to David Ortiz who came alive in the Finals hitting .647 with 8 runs, 3 homers and 5 RBI.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Baseball Finals: Day 4

9 Wins 1 Loss

Thursday's heroes were David Ortiz who went 4 for 4 with a homer and Brett Myers who got a big save. Does it bother me I'm capitalizing on the Mets' bad fortunes with a wifebeater to win a pennant? A little, but David Ortiz seems like a good guy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Everything I Consume: Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World

A few weeks ago I was at the Museum of Natural History gift shop with Gwendolyn. I told her I wanted to get something for myself and she agreed that I needed something, too. We went up the stairs to the grown-up section of the gift shop and she picked this book by Ann Moyal. It was a good choice.

I'm a big fan of books that take an in-depth look at one thing and through that shows you so much more about the world. Two of my favorites are Calendar by David Duncan and Cod by Mark Kurlansky. I think everyone should read those books. Seriously, read them now! Dava Sobel's Longitude was pretty good, too. Platypus is a notch below those but it's still a good book.

After the platypus was discovered first seen by white people in 1799 it caused a huge dilemma into exactly what it was. A mammal? A reptile? A bird? Did it lay eggs? Could its young nurse? And if so, why didn't it have nipples? And how do you nurse with such a large bill?
(I've tried it, it's not easy.) This all happened in the great age of scientific classification when Linnaeus and others were trying to classify all animals and decide where they fit in the Great Chain Of Being. The platypus challenged scientists belief in a neat, orderly animal kingdom and they struggled to classify it. Later, on his worldwide voyage Charles Darwin (maybe you've heard of him) saw a platypus and it greatly influenced him. Ironically, these debates were taking place among Europeans thousands of miles away and not Australians. The role of Australians was mainly to kill many, many, platypuses and send them back to England.

Baseball Finals: Day 3

Manny's Grill are up 10-0-0! Yesterday's heroes were Mike Lowell with 5 RBI and B.J. Upton who went 2 for 3 with a steal.

One more good day and I can pour fantasy champagne and tear up my imaginary stadium.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Baseball Finals: Day 2

ESPN seems to be a bit funked up so no scoring update but last night was a good one for the boys thanks to two Prince Fielder homers (keep stickin' it to your old man, Prince) and wins from Schilling and Burnett. More info as it becomes available, fans.

The Safari is Over

Back in 2003 I worked for a really, shitty company and our IT support was I guy I'll call Crazy Chris. He was such an Apple apologist that the day after it was released he told someone we'd soon be switching to Safari! I don't think he'd even used it yet. He was also convinced that everyone in the company was on LimeWire and that was what was causing all our computer problems. Moron.

Anyway, today was the day I finally gave up on Safari. Maybe I should have done it when I realized I had to do my banking in Firefox or maybe I should have done it when I realized Safari couldn't display my fantasy football team right but I'm doing it today because all that stuff in Blogger actually works in Firefox. I thought it was just decoration or an early beta test! I can spell check! I can add links,

block quotes
  • and lists!
In honor of the occasion I've written a short rap:

I'm off Safari
Like a mapinguary
Cause I got my ass kicked
like Jerry Quarry

I love Firefox
This motherflipper rocks
like bagels and lox.
So gimme a schmear,
that'll last all year
My new browser is here!

I promise I'll never do that again.

Everything I Consume: Trapped in a Closet, Chapters 1–12

…and the midget faints again…

What can possibly said about Trapped in the Closet that hasn't been said before? It's like finding something new to say about the Bible or Pulp Fiction. I've been trying to write this post since the weekend and it's the hardest one I've ever done.

So, I'll just say I love this gloriously over-the-top movie/video/hip-hopera or whatever you want to call it.

There's some controversy over whether this is intentionally crazy or so bad it's good but I have to go with intentionally crazy. R.Kelly just took his ideas and ran with them. Of course it's ridiculous but that's all right.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Baseball Finals: Day 1

3 Wins 0 Losses 7 Ties

Not a lot of action but a modest lead thanks to a fine day from Prince Fielder. I think I caught a break from A.J. Burnett skipping his Yankee start for "personal reasons" to go against Baltimore. Six days to go.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Everything I Consume: A Deadly Shade of Gold

This is classic John D. MacDonald. Our hero, Travis McGee, sleeps with three women, gets shot twice and there are about a dozen corpses. In between detective work and gunplay there's a lot of philosophizing and critical observations of American culture, circa 1965. Travis is every man's fantasy; he's great with the ladies and a gun, more sharp than smart, doesn't take crap from anyone and lives on a houseboat. He sleeps with women but never takes advantage of them. Here's a good description of McGee from an article by Doug Bassett: "McGee is an odd duck, no doubt about it – to use Ed Gorman’s memorable phrase, he was 'a Rotarian’s fantasy of the Cool Guy.' And at his worst, mostly in the early books, he’s quite contrived, an odd bundle of Fifties morality paired with Sixties ratpack 'coolness.' "

I like MacDonald but his writing and plots are often too complicated for my taste. He's definitely a link between the spare style and shorter books of early hardboiled writers like Chandler, Hammett and Ross MacDonald and the more modern style with more characterization and longer stories of writers like Robert Parker and Robert Crais.

One of my favorite parts of the book, and something that tells you a lot about the kind of writer MacDonald is, is when he Travis asks his lady friend if she is Catholic. She give a page-long response about how she had faith as a child and it meant so much to her but lost it when her brother died young, and now she clings to it as nostalgic link to her past. It turns out he wants her to ask the priest a few questions about some people they're looking for. Here's how a few other writers would handle the situation.

Arthur Conan Doyle: "A papist such as yourself should have no trouble asking the priest a few questions"
"I…I will do it , Mr. Holmes," Nora said bravely.
"Holmes, how did you know the woman was a Catholic?"
"It is simple Watson, the vast majority of Italians are Catholic, I merely took an educated guess and was proven correct."

Mickey Spillane: "Listen, Padre, the last time I saw my friend he was lying in a pool of gore in a motel room. Are you gonna tell me what I want to know?"

Dashiell Hammett: "Luckily, Nora was Catholic and after hearing too much of her life story agreed to talk to the priest. She found out plenty."

Ross MacDonald: Lew Archer would just ask the priest himself who would answer all his questions and tell Archer the entire backstory.

Baseball Playoffs: Round 1 Roundup

Well, the Bayonne Bombers made it close but I managed to win the week 6-4 thanks to a 2-1 edge in saves and a 34-33 lead in runs. My batting average lead dwindled to .299-.292, that's about four hits either way. It can be that close. Now it's on to the finals where I'm playing Eric's New York Superbas squad. I feel confident because I saw Eric on Saturday and he didn't even know he was in the playoffs.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

OTR Live Blog

I've always wanted to do one of those live blog so I thought I'd live blog the old time radio I'm listening to today.
11:18: The Fat Man. "Muder Wins The Draw" I've never been a big fan of this show. It was based on a character created by Dashiell Hammett and I think all he did was come up with the name. Anyway, this is literally the third OTR detective show I heard in the past six months that starts with an unknown woman approaching the hero in public and pretending she knows him so she can escape some bad guys.
11:42: The Fat Man. The Fat Man was sponsored by Pepto-Bismol.
11:46: The Fat Man. A thumbs down to The Fat Man. Not that interesting or colorful. This episode was filled with Central Americans with cringe-inducing accents. I'm going to give this show a pass from here on. I wish the OTR podcasts had more Broadway Is My Beat. That's a great old show with some great writing. Of course if I wasn't so lazy I could just go here.
12:01: You Are There. "Columbus Discovers America". What could be better than an epsiode of You Are there? "All things are as they were then except for one thing — when CBS is there, you are there." Major historical events as if they were covered by radio. Last week they played the assasination of Lincoln and the suspense was so great during Our American Cousin I could barely listen to it. After the radio shows there was a TV version with Walter Cronkite and I must have been the only eight-year old who watched it. It's October 12, 1492 and Don Hollenbeck is in London…
12:48: You Are There. Wow, one of the reasons Columbus was looking for the Indies was to gain treasure to fund another crusade to liberate Jerusalem. That's depressing.
1:08: You Are There. Great sound effects on this show. I really feel like I'm listening to a storm on a ship while on The Fat Man I just felt like I was listening to a radio show.
1:21: You Are There. I like how this show captured the misconceptions of their times uncritically. Americo Vespucci just gave his reaction that Columbus has found"the legendary island of Japan" right in front of Cahtay where people eat on gold plates and walk on gold floors. The episode on the first voyage of the Tom Thumb was great for goofy theories on speed and the future of railroads.
1:45: You Are There. Wow. Excellent work by John Daly covering the actual landing in St. Sebastian. This guy would have been a great actor if he hadn't of been a reporter. I feel the confusion and sense of wonder of a live news event and the experience of the unknown. Who are these people we're meeting? Why don't they speak the languages we think they'll speak? Where are their horses? Great stuff. As always, the broacast fades out in mid-report and the announcer says, "October 12, 1492. Columbus discovers America." with all the reverb allowable by law.
2:34: Space Patrol. "Captain Hacket's Planetoid". Don't know anything about this show but it seems the voice of the Lost In Space robot is the announcer.
2:42: Space Patrol. I guess there are gruff but lovable prospectors in the future. This is a kids show and kids shows sucked in 1954.
2:47: Space Patrol. The narrator just said the action was taking place at a small "Space Hotel" on Saturn 6. I don't know if the have Space Room Service or Space Mints on the Space Pillow.3:05: Space Patrol. Ha Ha. The bad guy (Prince Baccarratti) stole Space Patrol's space ship.
3:10: Space Patrol. Well, it's over. Lots of ads for Quik and a "cosmic rocket launcher". This show is just a cosmic rocket launcher delivery device.
3:25: That Hammer Guy. "The Fenton Case". I don't know if I have the wherewithal and perpicasity to live blog another show (I have work, y'know) but I need to point out this show is sponsored by Kix cereal, Camel cigarettes and Esquire magazine.
3:33: That Hammer Guy. Another dead body found in a hotel room.
3:38: That Hammer Guy. Another murder. The count is two murders and a flesh wound to Mike Hammer. And we're off to a cereal commercial.
4:08: That Hammer Guy. The drunk woman giving Hammer information loves the song "Sophisticated Lady". That's ironic!
4:20: That Hammer Guy. The killer gets killed herself. OK, I'm OTR'd out. That'll do it for today. Hope you had fun.

Baseball Playoff: Day 3

Up 6-3-1.
Another banner day for Matt Holliday (2/3, 2 HRs) who is looking like a latter-day Goose Goslin or Reggie Jackson for his post-season heroics.

Today is an off day for a few of my guys so I picked up James Loney to give me some one-day pop. I'm tied in HR and only up by one in RBI. I could really use a save tonight to tie that category and cut into John's enormous lead in ERA and WHIP.

Time will tell if I stand the test of time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baseball Playoff: Day 2

The head wearing the crown is lying a little easier today. Manny's Grill is beating Bayonne 7-2-1. If not for a foolish decison to start John Maine (one that like Willie Randolph, I shan't make again) I'd be running the table. My boys are hitting a freakish .465 over the last two days led by Matt Holliday's (late-season trade) 8/10 and Garret Anderson's (Free Agent pickup for the playoffs) 6/7.

Things are going my way on the other side of field. Ben Sheets got hurt after one inning and Vlad Guerrero is slumping. I'm starting to feel it.

No starters going tonight. I'm hoping for some relief pitching to give me the save lead and trim down my 6.10 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. We must destroy our enemies on all fronts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baseball Playoff Update

The baseball playoffs are here. Not the real-life baseball playoffs but the League of Fun 07 playoffs. It started so long ago, when my team name, Manny's Grill, was topical gag. Now I hardly remember the joke. My team has dominated the regular season. We've won nine straight weeks, took our division by 15 games, lead the league in four categories and came in second in two others. I drafted Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz. I picked up Russell Martin, Brandon Phillips and John Maine off the waiver wire. But I fear it's all going to fall apart. Like my beloved Brooklyn Cyclones I've gotten close many times but never won it all. In 2001 I had a team so good I was in ESPN's top 25. Then you-know-what-happened, then Phil Garner benched Roger Cedeno and finally I got out coached in the finals.

I didn't even get a t-shirt.

But I feel this could be my year (fingers crossed, fingers crossed). My first playoff opponent is the Bayonne Bombers owned by my buddy John O'Hara. John once beat me for a fantasy football title on a defensive touchdown with 91 seconds to play IN THE SEASON! His Bombers are led by Jimmy Rollins, Vlad Guerrero, Carlos Lee, Ben Sheets and Roger Clemens. But my secret weapon may be that I don't think John is still changing his lineup. They have an early 5-4-1 lead but there's a lot of ball to be played. Right?

I never understood paranoia or Watergate until the first time I was in first-place in a fantasy league. Now, everyone was gunning for me and I had so much to lose. Success, it is a curse.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Everything I Consume: Il Tabarro (The Cloak)

This was quite a treat. A staging of a Puccini opera on a ship docked in Brooklyn with the New York skyline in the background.

Any date night with The Wife is special but this was a unique experience. How can you resist opera in your neighborhood on a barge? I can't. To get to the opera we strolled over to the entrance of American Stevedore's dock on Van Brunt Street. From there, we had to pass through a corridor of shipping containers to the dock. While waiting for the show to start we enjoyed a Steve's Key Lime Pies, the same pies we had for our Red Hook wedding. It's not an event in Brooklyn without Steve's pies. The Wife got a glass of wine and was stuck behind a woman who insisted on tasting all the wines. Tasting the wine, at an event! Anyway, it was a beautiful sunset and we sat and watched the skyline and the boats in the harbor.

Before the opera started there were lots of people in costume walking around, singing and talking to the crowd. The opera as written is set in 1910 on a barge on the Seine but this production was staged in 1940s Red Hook. Most of the action and the orchestra was on the ship itself and the audience sat on the dock in folding chairs.

I'm not expert enough to judge the opera (this was my second) but I enjoyed it and could follow the story since I read the plot summary in the program before. One thing I like about the two operas I've seen is is it just ends. The last person dies, there's a moment of grief and that's it. I hate stuff that just lingers on and on after the story is over.

It was a great night. We need more opera on barges and more dates with The Wife!

Here's an article about the opera from the Daily News.

Everything I Consume: Blades of Glory

I won't lie to you, I fell asleep about twenty minutes into this one and never woke up. If I had to rank Blade related items I would place it behind Blades of Steel, Mach 3 razor blades and Blade Runner but ahead of the Toledo Blade and the movie Blade.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Everything I Consume: Slayground

I had to read this one fast and finished it in two days but it was a doozy. Donald Westlake (here writing as Richard Stark) never disappoints. This book is part of his series about the master thief, Parker. In Slayground, Parker is in a heist gone bad and must flee into closed for the winter amusement park where he is pursued by mobsters and corrupt cops. That's all you need for a great book. Brilliant killing machine trapped in an amusement park, it writes itself! I liked that this this book got straight into the action. Only a few pages are spent on the robbery and blown escape before Parker is trapped in the park.

Westlake's great at writing description. This book has long passages where Parker explores the amusement park, thinks about his situation or gets into fights and it's always easy to see what Westlake is trying to show and is never dull. You always feel the cold. I think this is about the toughest kind of writing and it always impresses me.

Parker is not the main character's real name and the action takes place in a fictional, never identified city. This gives the story a feeling it could be happening someplace we know, just not quite here. I wish more writers used fictional locations, I think they can make books more interesting than spewing out information to get the feel of an actual location. That was another problem with my book so maybe that's why I like Donald Westlake so much, he has the solution for all my problems.

An interesting sidelight is the opening chapter was recycled for another Stark/Westlake book called The Blackbird. In it we find out what happens to Grofield, another member of Parker's gang involved in the heist. Grofield is also the main character in Lemons Never Lie, a Westlake recently republished by Hard Case.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From the 23rd Street Post Office

That's a dedicated Netflix slot! When I was in high school, if I had suggested something like this (as if anyone in 1983 could have comprehended DVDs, the web and reliable postal service) my teachers would have said it was wrong to use public resources for the good of a single corporation. Now it seems like a great idea as long as I get my Trapped in a Closet and Disney Princess videos faster.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Am Reading Three Books

In one of the many iterations of The Odd Couple Oscar Madison tells the story of Felix Unger introducing himself by saying, "I have two colds."

Only slightly less annoying is the fact that I am reading three books at the same time. I've been reading Steve Coll's Ghost Wars, an excellent account of the Afghan Wars from the seventies to September 10, 2001. It's a great book but very long so I've been taking breaks to read other things. Partially for myself and partially so I can keep up the insatiable demand for Everything I Consume posts. What's with you people?

Anyway,That's when I started John D. MacDonald's A Deadly Shade of Gold. This is a fun read. I never seek out John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books but I always enjoy them when I stumble onto them. I was about four chapters in when I got an e-mail saying my copy of Donald Westlake's Slayground had sold on Amazon. This was great news except I'd never read Slayground. I had posted it on Amazon for $13.99 and was astonished when it sold so fast or at all. But I really wanted to read Slayground (Donald Westlake is one of the three people I consider America's greatest living author) so I had to put down the MacDonald and am now trying to read the Westlake as fast as I can.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Curious Book Tale

Here's an interesting self-publishing story from my man, Fender Tucker. Fender runs Ramble House, publishers of Harry Stephen Keeler and loads of other great out-of-print authors. Every once in awhile, I get the Ramble House Rambler, a newsletter about Fender and his company. The story below is from today's Rambler:

I was browsing the web the other day when I found a site listing all of the extraneous things one of my favorite authors, Philip Jose Farmer, has written. Essays, articles, introductions, etc. One of them was an afterword for the 13th Doc Savage Omnibus from Bantam, published in the 70s. I was interested and had the book -- indeed, I have all 181 of the Bantam Doc Savages -- so I got it down from my shelf and read the afterword. Farmer says the final Doc Savage novel, UP FROM THE EARTH's CENTER, is especially good and I'd never read it so I started to.

So far so good, but I found that the book, which is in pristine shape, has the text printed deep into the gutter and I knew that before I finished the story I would have probably cracked the spine a little. Dammit! The book sells for $50 - $100 on eBay and I hated to make it less "valuable" by simply reading it. I was also having trouble with the small font that Bantam used. Double dammit! I'm getting old.

So I did what any normal Ramble House Grand Exalted Mojo would do and checked to see if I had the text in a file on my computer. I did! Luckily I had downloaded all the Doc Savage ZIP files from the site of Black Mask before Bantam sued the hell out the guy who ran it and made him take all the Doc Savage texts down. All I had to do was unZIP the file, paste all the text into WORD and format it for Ramble House. That took about a half hour. Then I printed the PDF out and bound it (fifteen minutes) and was able to enjoy the story in a large font in a book with a wide gutter that I didn't have to treat like a $50 book.

The moral to my story is that once you become a Grand Exalted Mojo at Ramble House, it may be cheaper and easier (at least on the eyes) to MAKE a book than it is to get in my car and go out and buy it. Or even order the book online and wait for it to come in the mail. Or maybe the moral is that the big publishers ought not to print so deep into the gutter so that merely reading a book all but destroys it. Whatever, I can assure you that Ramble House always uses a one inch margin in the gutter so that you don't have to bend the books unnaturally to read the text.

Now this was a special case. I had the text already ZIPped in WORD format. If I hadn't, I would have had to scan the book and OCR it and the scanning probably would have been more damaging to the book than reading it. But more and more texts
of great old books are available online from and other places. Maybe one of these days the copyright laws will become less insane and even the texts of great old books of the 30s and 40s will become available online.

I used to consider people who needed large-print books as wimps but time has a way of making wimps out of all of us -- see Congress and the White House for examples of this -- and I sure do enjoy a book more when I don't have to squint. Don't you? If there are any Ramble House books you want in a large print format, let me know and I'll format and make them available from Lulu. Warning: because Lulu charges by the page, a large-print book will cost about 20% more than a regular book. I should probably charge for the time it takes me to do the reformatting, but I do that all day anyway, so it's no big deal.

Fender is so cool.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Bronx Is Burning

About twenty-five years ago my father was a writer and editor for Penthouse magazine. One of his fellow writers was Reggie Jackson who wrote a column about cars. Well, Reggie didn't actually write the column, he would call in every few weeks and talk about whatever car was on his mind and one of the editors would "translate it into English" as my Dad would say.

My Dad and his fellow editors hated Reggie. They mocked him and his column endlessly and some of his descriptions of cars became catch phrases. My favorite was, "opulent but concise". One day, one of the editors called up Reggie to talk about his column and asked how he was. "Great," Reggie said. "I hit a home run last night." This was hilarious to my Dad and his friends. Reggie was like a little kid! Reggie was a show off! Reggie's self-worth was caught up in a child's game! And bear in mind, my Dad, rest in piece and a wonderful man, was a huge baseball fan. "I hit a home run last night." Who talks like that?

Well, you know what? None of those people ever hit a major league home run.

This was a great mini series and I recommend it to everyone even if you're not a baseball fan or a Yankees fan or read the excellent book it's based on. I put up with Oliver Platt and John Turturro for a summer and so can you. Daniel Sunjata was opulent but concise as Reggie Jackson.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Record-Setting Day!

Thanks to a link from my man Ken Rudin on STFF set a record of, wait for it, 19 visitors yesterday!

For those of you coming over from NPR I'll have a personal essay with world music in the background up shortly so you should feel right at home.

And please send me money.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Lady In The Morgue

This was a very good book, screwball and hardboiled at the same time. The story concerns the theft of an unidentified body from the Chicago Morgue and the chase to find it and identify the body. The detective, William Crane, is dedicated to the case but still finds time to have nice meals (on his expense account) with the two detectives helping him out, drink heavily and go to "penthouse parties". It was a nice change from some of the more obsessive detectives of the era. This is definitely a book where the journey is more important than the destination. I had trouble following the solution but I didn't really care that much. Hey, does anyone remember if they ever found the Maltese Falcon or who the killer was in Murder on the Orient Express? The writing is first rate but Crane's detective agency owes a lot to the agency in the Continental Op stories.

My copy was the cool 1942 printing shown above. I got it at a local antique store but the book seems to be in print or at least available in a cheap used version. I've read a couple of other Latimers including the excellent Solomon's Vineyard. Here's a great interview with Latimer.

Chicago was the home of the other great screwball/hardboiled mystery writer Craig Rice as well as the indescribable Harry Stephen Keeler both of whom I highly recommend.

Today I Had the Chili…FROM HELL!!!!!

Just Talkin' Bout Mon

STFF is back from a Montauk vacation weekend. Montauk is a place to do nothing and I think we did it pretty well. Everyone ate a ton of fried food and I had lobster twice. The weather was perfect and Saturday there was a thick fog straight out of a horror movie. This fog was so thick it slowed down but did not stop the awesome force that is Brangelina. I spent the evening at a bar watching pre-season football and you can't beat that. Sadly, our favorite drunk from last year was nowhere to be seen. When we met him last year he was comparing Jets and Giants fans watching football together to racists finding common ground and then hit on the waitress when his date went to the bathroom. We finished up at the Memory Motel bar. The place was immortalized in a Rolling Stones song and they won't let you forget it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Everything I Consume: Lo-Carb Monster Energy Drink (Blue Can) Part 2

I'm blaming the Monster for my curious mix of jumpiness and alertness this afternoon. Effects of energy drink may have been alterned by my lack of sleep last night (Thanks, Owen!). When my co-worker Kristen came over to show me some changes to a self-mailer I kept focusing on how tiny her hands are even though she's taller than me. That could be anything.

Everything I Consume: Lo-Carb Monster Energy Drink (Blue Can)

So, I'm walking back from buying my lunch salad when a black pick-up truck parks next to me, two guys turn up the stereo, get out and start shouting "Free Monster!, Free Energy Drink!" and start handing out drink cans. Naturally, I jump in front of a woman and take one. I don't really like energy drinks and have never heard of Monster but it's free, it has to be good!

But that's not the weird part.

Back in my bulding I get in with two guys and one asks if I've like Monster and when I say I've never tried it says , "You should try the coffee Monster, it's a lot better." And the other guy says, "The green is the best, the blue is disgusting."

Anyway this stuff tastes like a mix of Red Bull and bubble gum. I'll let you know if I unleash the beast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crying Over Spilled Integrity

How do you know STFF is a major media outlet? I'm getting my story ideas from the New York Times, that's how.

Check out the above web page from the New York State Inspector General's Office and specifically the slogan "got integrity!". Is this the best they could do? They've got the time, it's not like they're conducting an investigation of Elliot Spitzer or anything.

I have a few questions.

Wasn't last year the fifteenth anniversary of the "got milk?" campaign being so over and the tenth anniversary of "got milk?" parodies being over. Do they even still have "got weed?" t-shirts on the Jersey Shore? The shark has been jumped, everyone has gone home and the fish tank has been dismantled. You're a hep cat, New York State Inspector General Kristine Hamann. Way to loosen up the Inspector General's office so the kids can get interested in inspecting.

Why doesn't the mission statement of the IG's office mention integrity? The mission statement is: "The Office of the Inspector General is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that State government and its employees meet the highest standards of honesty, accountability, and efficiency." Is integrity a recent addition? An optional add-on, maybe?

How important is integrity if you shoved it in the corner and made it hard to find?

Why does "got milk?" have a question mark but "got integrity!" have an exclamation point? I guess the answer is obvious but it defeats the whole purpose of the quote. People ask, "Got milk?" or "Got beer?" or "Got HBO?" all the time but have you ever hear anyone exclaim, "Got integrity!" or "Got fidelity!" or "Got thrift!"?

Why are they using Verdana? The "got milk?" font is Phenix American and it costs $24 on That's about the cost of ten minutes of trailing Joe Bruno.

Why are the buildings cut off in the picture of New York City (second from the left on top)? I keep thinking I need to scroll up to get the whole page. Oddly, all four link to the New York State website.

My suggestion is scrap the whole thing and get NYC's own Matthew Broderick to reprise his role from the Inspector Gadget movies. You know he's sitting in a trench coat right now staring at the phone thinking, "Ring, damn you, ring!"

Feel free to add your own critiques. Remember, there's nothing wrong with kicking someone when they're down. They're closer to your foot and it's more efficient.

Thanks for Saving Me the Trouble!

Great post on Fire Jay Mariotti making fun of a ridiculous Gregg Easterbrook column from a few days ago.

Monday, August 20, 2007


…for the lack of recent posts. I've been working on a secret second blog about detective fiction (it's nothing I couldn't handle with posts here but I like saying," I have two blogs." Uh-oh.) and an especially large post inspired by Gwen's Fantastic Four obsession. I'm pushing to finish my book tonight so I can do an Everything I Consume. I'm all about the fans! I won't get all Mick Taylor on you

This weekend was excellent. I was exhausted Saturday but we stuck the kids in the car and they were asleep before we hit the Triborough. It seems the only time The Wife and I can talk is in cars, which is rough because we have to rent them. My aunt threw a barbaques and lured the family over to meet Owen. It was a blast with good food, other people to hold Owen, play with Gwen and I got to talk Fantasy Football and Football video games with my cousin Bret (with 1 T). I discovered my cousins are all huge fans of Flight of the Conchords, which was kind of a weird revelation.

Oh, and last night's Entourage was amazing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Everything I Consume: New York Deli Kettle Cooked JalapeƱo Potato Chips

These are my favorite potato chips. They have an exquisite heat that slowly soaks through my pores in a pure head rush and rosacea triggering aftertaste. I think what makes them so great is that I usually buy them in a small 50 cent 1.5 ounce bag. A smaller bag would be disappointing and a larger bag would be too much.

Sorry, fans. I was hoping to have something better for EIC but I haven't finished a book in a while and I wasn't really into writing about Knocked Up.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn's 4th birthday was this weekend. It was a lot of fun and she got a lot of great presents but this is a picture of my favorite. Because it's not enough to be a boat, it's not enough to be hip hop or a ninja, it's not even enough to be a world champion.

Happy birthday, Gwendolyn. You're my hip hop ninja world champion.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Bourne Ultimatum

Jason Bourne is back, boy is he back. These Bourne movies just get better and better and it seems a shame to stop them now. I foresee a future where the unstoppable Jason Bourne takes on Godzilla or those Independence Day guys and survives ever increasing attempts to defeat him. Shoot him into space, shrink him to subatomic size, drop him in a volcano and cover it with a boulder. It just doesn't matter. Nothing, anywhere, anyhow can stop the killing machine that is Jason Bourne. At one point in this movie Jason Bourne is saved because people start shooting at him. Has that ever happened to you?

This was a great movie. Exciting from start to finish. Compelling story, great action sequences, good acting and plenty of unanswered questions to justify another sequel (What's the deal with Julia Stiles? It can't be coincidence that she keeps showing up. And she just looked like she knew something she wasn't telling. I mean, c'mon!) I think this might be the first time a movie series has gotten better with each of the first three movies. I guess that depends whether you think Goldfinger is a better movie than From Russia With Love and that, gentle reader, is a question for the ages.

This was the first time I'd seen a movie opening weekend in years (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer does not count) and it was a blast to be in a crowded theatre on a Sunday afternoon filled with people laughing and cheering.