Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Everything I Consume: Wall-E

Whenever I tell people I thought Wall-E was a good movie but nothing special they look at me and say, "You're the first person I know who didn't LOVE Wall-E." It's awkward. Maybe I was a little tense because I went to see it with Gwendolyn and I spend half the movies I see with her worried about her reaction. She had a great time. Towards the end of the movie I heard her making a weird sound like she was yawning but when I looked I saw she was holding back tears at the story. It was a moment that was heartbreaking but wonderful at the same time. I told her everything was going to be OK and, of course, it was but I wanted to tell her how lucky she was to be four and see everything for the first time and not know there's going to be a happy ending.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Everything I Consume: The Daughter of Time and The Crown Crime Companion

Years ago I read an interview with V.S Naipaul, I have no idea why, where he said he would give a book 100 pages or so and if he didn't like it he would just stop reading. I've never actually read any of V.S Naipaul's books but I figure if a Nobel Prize-winning author would quit on a book he didn't like I certainly could. This was a revelation. I've been much more aggressive about giving up on books ever since. So, I bailed on The Daughter of Time after about fifty pages. I'd only been reading it because The Crown Crime Companion said it was the fourth-best mystery ever written. Better than Murder Must Advertise, Red Harvest, The Long Goodbye or Murder on the Orient Express. Better than anything written by Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald or Ken Follett. I beg to differ. After fifty or so pages I found myself with that familiar feeling on involuntarily skimming paragraphs, then whole pages and then not caring enough to go back.

The story is about a English policeman stuck in the hospital who decides to solve the mystery of whether Richard III actually killed his two nephews. This was an interesting premise but there's too much of that breezy British dialogue that I can't stand. I just don't see the point of reading this book when there are still Agatha Christies and Dorothy Sayers I haven't read.

Since I only read this book because The Crown Crime Companion recommended it that book gets sent to paperbackswap.com too. Go, false guide to mystery novels, go! And I'm not going to read Presumed Innocent, either.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In The Papers

The mysterious Vermont Market & Pharmacy, across the street from my apartment made the New York Times today.

Everything I Consume: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

I love the style of 1930s medicine in old movies. Everything is white and sterile and made of chrome and porcelain yet people can still smoke cigarettes in the operating room. The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse is Edward G. Robinson, who becomes a criminal to study the physical effects of crime on the human body. Eventually, he takes over a gang and even does blood work on them before their heists. This movie was a lot of fun and has a cool ending. Highly recommended.

For a guy who has been frequently caricatured, Robinson could be a versatile and subtle actor who tried many different kinds characters in the course of his career. I think he's great in Double Indemnity. In fact, his final role was being turned into Soylent Green. Claire Trevor is also great as one of the criminals.

This movie was written by John Huston and was the beginning of an amazing collaboration with Humphrey Bogart (Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, African Queen) that ranks with Scorsese-DeNiro, Wilder-Lemmon and Jones-Bunny as the best in movie history.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Everything I Consume: A Spectacle of Corruption

This book is David Liss' sequel to his book, A Conspiracy of Paper. That book was set in 1720 London and told the story of Jewish ex-boxer turned proto-private detective Benjamin Weaver navigating the financial shenanigans leading up to the collapse of the South Sea stock market bubble. I'm pretty ignorant about that period of time so I learned a lot. That's one of the things I like about mysteries, they can take you to so many different places and times. Anyway, Conspiracy of Paper was a good book and I think it won an Edgar Award. When I was reading it I bumped into my friend Annie on the subway and she said she was envious of me reading it for the first time. IMHO, it's a good book but not that good.

The sequel is set a few years later and opens as Weaver is being falsely convicted of murder. Not only is he being set up for execution he is also set up to escape prison. It's a complex story set against the background of the 1722 parliamentary election. There's a much-needed historical note in the front of the book and the players are often recapped. Still, I don't think I ever got a handle on it. Throw in a conspiracy where people may be trying to implicate the other side of crimes and it's very hard to follow. Like Conspiracy of Paper, it's all talked out in a lengthy explanation at the end of the book.

This book seemed to lurch in a pattern of Weaver interviewing someone, finding out a small piece of information then he talks to someone else and finds out more information. Then there's a fight scene. Repeat. Maybe most mysteries and even most books and movies are like this and it just seemed more artificial and exposed in this book. Like I said before there's lots of recapping.

Despite all my complaints I really liked this book. I fell into the rhythm of the plot and the dialogue was great as were the descriptions of London. Weaver is a great character. He is strong but unsure of himself intellectually. Weaver is constantly proud of himself when he figures something out or says something witty. I cared about the mysterious conspiracy and even the election. So, go figure.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Talkin' Bout Mon

The family hit Montauk for the holiday weekend and it was just the way we like it, cold, foggy and filled with over-friendly strangers. Despite the threat of Hamptons trash spilling over Montauk is still a very low-key place, ideal for doing a lot of nothing like playing on the beach, reading the goofy local papers, playing mini-golf and strolling through town.

We ate tons of random fried foods, I felt a little guilty as my kids wolfed down french fries at the friendly but incompetent MTK Diner but they seemed to enjoy themselves while the other patrons raged against the poor service and bad food.

Gwendolyn got to take her first pony ride and she loved it. She wasn't nervous at all and we laughed when the pony stopped to take a leak in the middle. Gwendolyn also took a bike ride (and kept putting The Wife into flower beds) and showed the combination of extreme interest and lack of talent in mini-golf that means she really is Daddy's girl.

Unlike his sister at that age Owen isn't scared of the beach at all but he does like to put his pacifier in the sand and then suck on it. The grubby little guy had a great time. Check out this movie from our trip to Gosman's Pier.

Like so much in life the trip was a lot of work and a lot fun. We left a stroller at the hotel with all our sweaters but, hey, we'll just pick them up when we go back in August.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Everything I Consume: The Guns of Heaven

This was a good, quick read from Pete Hamill about a reporter who gets involved with the IRA. I liked this book but even at 250 pages there's a lot of padding about Irish history and New York City locales. For some reason the author even threw in an albino near the end of the book. I guess you toss the rulebook when you're trying to make a deadline, I don't know. Here are a couple of reviews.