Poetry Tuesday: A Memory

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, 1786-1859

When he grew pale, and his voice trembled,
And suddenly he could no longer speak;
When his eyes, burning beneath the lid,
Gave me a wound I thought he felt alike;
When all his charms, lighted by a fire
That has never faded,
Were printed in the depth of my desire,
He did not love. I did.

;o)

Book Reviews: 60s TV Show, Old West Romance, and Another Bush

Andrew Ross Wynn
Physical comedy is the most immediate way to get a laugh. The first time a Cro-Magnon fell down, I’m sure the other Cro-Magnons watching burst out laughing.

Cold Girl
To put it succinctly, Cold Girl left me cold.
For one thing, it has the longest chapters ever! A Mountie who is the foremost expert on a serial killer goes further north to investigate another murder, leaving his wife and child behind for a few weeks, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s also a cop up from North Vancouver—never did find out what interested him so much in the case—and another policeman damaged by something in his past, though no one knows that, resulting in him being treated like an idiot. Not all the local cops play nice either.
The victim was a musician, so all the bandmates are the likely suspects, especially the boyfriend. Things are of course never that easy. Halfway through, Dion—the damaged guy—becomes the main character, and manages to liven things up a bit, but despite some parts I liked, most of the didn’t engage. My main problem with it was how the murderer was uncovered; I couldn’t follow it at all. There’s also a point where the author calls a particular character “the killer,” even though it wasn’t. Some of the psychological insights were interesting, and the dialogue wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t help feeling this should have been over a lot faster.
2.5 rounded up to 3/5

Five Fingers
This is a book about the making of a TV show from the early 60s, starring two favorites from James Bond: David Hedison, the most famous Felix Leiter; and Luciana Paluzzi, Fiona Volpe from Thunderball (and my all-time fave Bond girl, but I digress).
I thought I knew a lot about this period of television, but I’d never heard of it, possibly because it was cancelled before it reached the half-season mark. . . which begs the question why there would be such a big book about it (never mind, it happened with Firefly). It was a spy thriller before such things were the rage, in fact failing because it was in the same time slot as the two biggest shows of the era, both Westerns.
At first, seeing the length of this book  felt rather daunting, but by page 129 there are episode synopses, followed by actor and crew bios, all of which total nearly half the book. At least there was some fun stuff in the first part; I love how the author writes Miss Paluzzi’s accent, as in “Luciana doesn’t agree that she sizzles. She only agrees that she can be ‘saxy’ when the ‘screept’ calls for it.”
But it’s the second half that leaves the biggest impression. After the episodes there’s a paragraph or two on everyone–except the caterers–who received any kind of credit. Following that is a chapter by someone else about the main character, then another article on the movie, and the real-life human, this series was supposedly based on
Having read books on the making of Twin Peaks, Back to the Future, Sherlock, Starship Troopers, Star Wars, etc. I can’t help but feel this one is quite a bit boring in comparison, though maybe that’s because I wasn’t familiar with it coming in. The best way to put this is that it feels more like a recitation of facts than an actual flowing story.
3/5

Harlot
In a small town in the Old West a man returns after two years, having gone to make his fortune in California. Now he’s back for the woman he loves. . . only to find she’s become a whore.
From her side, she’s a woman who made a deal with the devil for her virginity, having given up on her old boyfriend coming back for her. When he does, drama ensues.
There isn’t much setting here: the town is hardly ever mentioned except for a quick trip to a few bars and his mother’s house. Most of the action takes place at her house outside town. Seems like the geographical vagueness was done on purpose, as it has nothing to do with the story, but as a geography major and fan of Westerns I would have liked a little more specificity. My other quibble is some repetitiveness about her situation that annoyed me, constant reminders of what we already know in order to gain more sympathy for her; put the hammer away already.
Toward the end there’s an interesting switch: whereas throughout the story he’s angry at her for not waiting for him and doing what she did, wanting to punish her, suddenly he’s the bad guy for going to a whore when he was in California, whereas she did it to stay alive. No doubt this is the point the author wanted to make, especially when he uses the excuse of “boys will be boys.” While I agree with the sentiment, it seems a bit out of place in this era of the past, but as an allegory it works.
Not that the writing itself was bad in any way, but once the misunderstandings and declarations of love were out of the way it read much better, smoother. The best moments are when they’re together and can almost admit their feelings for each other, which they finally do, as this is still a romance novel despite the premise.
3.5 rounded up to 4/5

45
Ostensively written by George Dubya Bush himself, this is an account of how he trained his little brother Jeb to be president despite all the personality quirks and family history working against him. It wasn’t till the bios at the end that I found out the actual writer was the guy who invented The Onion; everything fell into place at that moment.
This isn’t a laugh out loud comedy; this humor is insidious, subversive. . . subtle. When I read Dubya saying, “One of my favorite pastimes at as a boy was torturing frogs,” it explained so much. Another gem is “. . . failing at business—and failing big—is a long-standing Bush tradition.”
So if you like this sort of thing, with supposedly self-deprecating jabs—though often Dubya sees them as positives—this is perfect for you. If you think this kind of thing might offend you, just make sure no one sees you reading it, you’ll chuckle anyway.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Two Mysteries, Two Drawings

“You need to chill. Try a one-night stand.”
“I’ve TRIED to have one-night stands, but they always turn into relationships!”

Dead List
Recently reviewed the second in this series, with this being the third, so it read a little easier even though I still haven’t done the first. This is one of those rare books I read in one sitting on a lazy afternoon off.
As it should be, the plot is simple: a dying lady has a kill bucket list, using such oldies-but-goodies like the blade-in-cane trick; I usta have one of those during my spinal surgery rehab, but I only used it to slice cheese.
Did I say the plot was simple? Technically it is, but there’s also a lot on the various detectives’ personal lives, not the least the lead, who is not only still with the woman he left his previous girlfriend for, but now finds someone else entirely. I almost feel sorry for the reporter gal, but the author writes her with such a horrible personality that it’s almost a relief when he cheats on her. Back to the main point, there’s a spot where the detective makes the intuitive leap, in this case killing with fire, but I couldn’t help wondering if was genuinely excellent police work or a little too convenient for the plot.
But don’t let those minor quibbles put you off; this is still a worthy addition to the pantheon of British police procedurals. Looking forward to the next in the series just so I can find out more about Officer Imogen. . .
4/5

Zen Pencils #2
In a nutty shell, the author, or rather the illustrator, takes short stories or passages written by famous people and turns then into visual narrative. A lot of hits, some misses.
The Amy Pohler piece was particularly well done, and turning Robert Kennedy’s speech into a dragonrider parable was inspired. The tomboy who wants to be a wrestler is also well presented, and this version of Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage” from “As You Like It” should be shown to all those struggling to understand what The Bard meant.
Some didn’t work at all; even when the original words were potent, the artwork didn’t seem to match, or simply laid there. My favorite poem, Oxymondius, is here in a very literal adaption that doesn’t add anything to the original, but on the other hand Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou, is as powerful as its words, and hits harder with the added visuals.
The overwhelming theme here is that only by facing your fears will you defeat them.
There’s a small summary at the end of each person whose story is used. Some were new to me, and therefore a delight, especially Margaret E. Knight. . . bonus points for the accidental rhyme.
4/5

Oh, Brother! Brat Attack!
I’ve been finding a lot of comic strips I’m unfamiliar with lately, but if they’re anything like their book collections, I will be following them daily.
As the title says, the main character is indeed a brat, and though his shenanigans are often funny, you can’t help but feel for his long-suffering sister. Which is not to say she’s helpless, as she gets her own digs and practical jokes in—I find myself enjoying when she gets the best of him the most—but of course not nearly as much as her little brother. I found this funnier than most, which is saying a lot. My favorite has to be at the amusement park, where the brat thinks, “The longer the line, the better the ride!” only to be told this was the line for the ladies’ room.
As might be expected from a comic strip rather than a graphic novel, the artwork is not meant to impress with its beauty; it does its job, which is to compliment the humor, especially the reaction shots in the last panel. Despite everyday words and situations, it comes across as smarter than most, which may explain why I like it so much.
4/5

The Missing and the Dead
I’m a strong proponent of writers giving the reader a chance to solve the mystery—or as Larry Niven put it, outwit the author—before it’s explained at the end. That means you can’t pull out a secret tunnel in a locked room mystery, or have your detective use a clue to solve the mystery without it having been mentioned before. In this book most readers would have forgotten the prologue by the time they get to the meat of the mystery, but including it is exactly why this author didn’t cheat.
Former Seattle reporter now a PI in San Fran hunts for a missing man, partly because he’s got an inheritance coming to him, and party. . . well, he’s missing. This is another in a series where I’ve read two entries, but this one goes back to near-beginning, being the second. I think I liked this entry a little less than the others, but because it happened earlier in the author’s career it doesn’t bear much thinking. It was a little weird seeing characters, like his soon-to-be-girlfriend, who are new here when I feel like I already know them. But already so early on the author had a knack for entertaining plotting while giving his protagonist just enough of a sense of humor without becoming cloying.
I will say I’ve learned a lot about the San Francisco area, mostly its surroundings, from these books. Next time I go to Napa I may take the scenic route. . .
4/5

;o)

UCLA Volleyball vr ASU

Felt really good to flex the photographic muscles again, especially with the fast-paced sport of volleyball. Just barely missed a lot of shots, but happy with my “pre-season” training.

See? Keep your eye on the ball and good things happen

See? Keep your eye on the ball and good things happen

Don't worry, Jordan can reach

Don’t worry, Jordan can reach

Claire politely declines your gift

Claire politely declines your gift

!IMG_1973

Rachel never quits

Rachel never quits

Someone finally had the bright idea to give Joe cubs. . . but where's Josie?

Someone finally had the bright idea to give Joe cubs. . . but where’s Josie?

!IMG_2057

Kyra making it look easy

Kyra making it look easy

Ryann filling the donut hole

Ryann filling the donut hole

Claire is walking on air

Claire is walking on air

No-look dink was the play of the match

No-look dink was the play of the match

Jenny's on fire!

Jenny’s on fire!

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Satire

An anonymous poem from the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific.

That man came shouting, “I am a chief.”
Certainly he looks lazy enough for the title.
He also has the appetite of a king’s son,
and a very royal waddle.
But he shouts “I am a chief!”
Therefore I know he is not one.

;o)

Book Reviews: German Serial Killers, Cursed Places, and Snoopy

The sign said European citizens get in free, but others have to pay 3 Euros, so I told the girl I was a citizen of the world; she grinned and told me to cough up the 3 Euros.

Shunned
A college student OD’s on pills prescribed by his university’s doctor. His mom protests a local drug company, gets put in jail, and is instantly hated and shunned–hence the title–by everyone, because they’re the lifeblood of the town. Seems amazing that all these supposedly religious people don’t give a damn that this kid died; all they care about is the money.
There’s a Sharyn McCrumb line about a kid having the soul of an aging Baptist minister; not this guy here. He’s the husband of the woman who went to jail, obsessed with hell. That’s all I’m gonna say about that, as I’m allergic to religion. But that’s not what the story’s about either. Those interesting topics of cultural shame, big pharma mischief, and the nature of evil were trotted out but weren’t followed up on. In the end it turned out to basically be a straightforward murder mystery where a minor character who doesn’t show up till halfway is revealed to be the bad guy.
At the beginning the writing was simplistic, with my pet peeve of far too many unneeded “began” and “start.” It got better, but there was never any smoothness to it. In addition to the hanging plots, I was not happy with the way her “vision” told her who did it, or how the villain cracked. Not horrible for a first effort, but plenty of room for improvement.
2/5

Last Date
A particularly brutal serial killer hunts victims on dating websites in the vicinity of Kassel, Germany. . . and I have to chuckle at the fact that I have a friend who lives there, who shares the name of one of the characters.
Okay, moment over. If you look at the master list of plots, this quickly becomes the one where the innocent man has to prove he’s not the bad guy. The serial killer is an expert hacker that not only toys with his victims but does a great frame job with emails and such. Everything is going against the protagonist; with him on the run, there really isn’t much room for character development, and with most of the scenes taking place in apartments and gyms, there wasn’t much that told me this was Germany instead of Britain or the US or even Sweden, which I think is a wasted opportunity. Some of the twists seemed a little too coincidental, and weren’t really needed, since the cops already thought it was him, but no doubt the author wanted to show even his friends were doubting his innocence. In general I liked it, but the ending left something to be desired.
3.5 pushed up to 4/5

Atlas of Cursed Places
Hard to resist a title like that, right? But there are two problems right off the bat, no future pun intended. The first is the writing style, which is overwrought and often more decorative than descriptive, like someone trying to impress with their vocabulary.
The other problem is with the title. How does one define “cursed?” If it’s meant to be literal—which is silly in itself—a lot of these entries lack a legend, someone’s death for example, to show why they’re cursed. If it’s meant metaphorically, then there must be millions of similar places in the world; why these? For instance, one of the entries is a place in Africa with tons of bats. . . this is cursed how? And what makes it more special than the similar place in Austin Texas, or Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, or Thailand? And that’s just the ones I know about.
Some of these places are intriguing in that I’ve never heard of them, yet still have only tenuous links to the topic. Princess Joanna did not wed as a child; seems like the stories are merely repeated and not researched. On the plus side, I did learn a new word I wish I hadn’t: tophet.
A lot of these supposedly cursed places are simply manmade environmental disasters: the slums of Nairobi, the islands of trash in the Maldives, the coal mines of India. Listed is a graveyard of old Soviet nuclear subs that’s stated to have 20 times the radioactive power of Chernobyl, but it doesn’t mention the spots in the old Soviet Union that are even worse. If you’re gonna say a part of Australia is cursed because it has crocodiles, then why not Florida and Louisiana and everywhere in between, as well as South America?
Pirates, really? The Nevada Triangle having 2000 planes missing in the last 50 years is intriguing, so of course you have to include the more famous one in Bermuda too. . . and yet the author mentions the now-accepted theory that there’s nothing special about the case, that statistically there haven’t been more disappearances than anywhere else. So where’s the curse?
As though the writing isn’t bad enough, the maps are useless, a case of style—not even much of that—over substance. So despite some great info and a few mysteries, like the Eilean Mor lighthouse, this was pretty damned disappointing.
1.5 pushed up to 2/5

Snoopy: Contact!
As one might expect, this is a collection of comic strips—all Sunday editions—featuring the dog who thinks he’s a WW1 pilot trying to shoot down the Red Baron.
I probably saw all these as a kid, but I still laughed again. More than that, I was intrigued by all the research put into the situations; there were mentions of cities, battles, even going on leave, from the time period that more often than not helped the jokes.
It’s hard to imagine there are many people who haven’t heard of this comic strip, even if it was just through the holiday specials. That makes it hard to say much about the characters, the artwork, and so on. Everything here is as it should be.
4/5

;o)