Sunday, December 26, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 283

Monday, December 27, 2004—572 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 11 seconds
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Rave: Kathryn Grayson
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Under Rated: John Payne, Thelma Ritter.
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A Pro’s Pro: Whenever you need a seasoned professional with just the right voice, check out Randi Martin at
www.randimartinvo.com. I guess I have known Randi for twenty-five or more years and she has always been a head of the curve.
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Rave: Saturday night Tim Russert convened his annual baseball discussion show at the Yogi Berra Museum. This year the guests were Jim Palmer (#22), Roger Clemens, Whitey Ford and Yogi. Pure joy! Last year it was repeated about a half dozen times. Check your listings on upcoming weekends. It is a major league treat.
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Rant: One truly needs a wide screen TV for Kirstie Alley and Anna Nicole
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Over rated: Any reality show.
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Way over rated: Any other reality show.
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TV Time Out: Turner Classic Movies is helping alleviate the drudgery of second-rate bowl games with the initial four "Thin Man" movies on Tuesday starting at 12:30 PM. William Powell and Myrna Loy first teamed up as Nick and Nora Charles in "The Thin Man" and arguably became the screen’s premiere romantic team. "The Thin Man" was completed in less that two weeks.
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TV Time Out, Part II: On Friday (New Year’s Eve) TCM presents seven Humphrey Bogart motion pictures. Starting at 6:30 AM with 1937’s "Dead End" with Joel McCrea, it is a film noir fan’s delight.
At noon is my particular favorite Bogart flick, "The Maltese Falcon." The lightning pacing enhances the drama and suspense of this remarkable adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel. Mr. Hammett also wrote "The Thin Man."
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Speaking of movies: Moviegoers hold the following truths to be self-evident.
All grocery bags have at least one loaf of French bread and one bunch of celery.
All U.S. telephone numbers begin with 555.
The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window in Paris.
Most laptop computers are powerful enough to override the communication systems of any invading civilization.
There is always a parking place directly in front of whatever building one is visiting.
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Quote: "Under capitalism man exploits man. Under socialism it is just the opposite." (Anon)
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Factoid: 911 days separated the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the 2004 train bombings in
Madrid, Spain.
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I miss: Don Shula, Rich Dauer, Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, Jungle Jim Rivera.
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Truism: The
Marlboro Man died of lung cancer.
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Rimshot: A bicycle cannot stand on its own because it is two-tired.
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Farewell: They entertained us, thrilled us, made us laugh, made us cry, lead us, sacrificed for us and most importantly they touched us in immeasurable ways. We are richer for all they gave us. Their like will never pass this way again.
Thanks for the memories: Ray Charles, Illinois Jacquet, Jerry Goldsmith, Virginia Grey, Ronald Reagan, Richard Avedon, Alistair Cooke, Cy Coleman, Marlon Brando, Laura Branigan, Elvin Jones, Bob Keeshan, Alan King, Estee Lauder, Ann Miller. Russ Meyer, Tony Randall, Janet Leigh, Jack Paar, Tug McGraw, Christopher Reeve, Fay Wray, Red Adair, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsh, Harry "The Cat" Brecheen, Barney Kessel, Julia Child, Skeeter Davis, Billy May, Robert Merrill, Vaughn Meader, Johnny Oates, Lester Lanin, Timi Yuro, Terry Melcher, Pat Tillman, Don Cornell, Howard Keel, Pierre Salinger, Ray Boone, Elmer Bernstein, June Taylor, Peter Ustinov.
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Born this day: Scotty Moore, Cokie Roberts, Oscar Levant, Marlene Dietrich, Sydney Greenstreet, Louis Pasteur.
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That is all.
As you were.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 282

Friday, December 24, 2004—546 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 58 seconds
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Rave: Ida Lupino
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Rave: I am getting XM Radio.
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Rant: I am getting XM Radio so I can watch baseball on the tube and not have to ever hear another ESPN announcer or Tim McCarver and Don Sutton say another word.
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Hmmmm: When everyone appears to be headed in the same direction---it may be time to look the other way.
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Quote: "Success is never final…failure is never fatal." ---Anon.
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Truism: Commuting is not necessarily bad---you just need a good reason for it, such as loving your job or loving your house. The longer the commute, the better the reason needs to be.
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Under Rated: Dennis Quaid, Rita Coolidge, Ann B. Davis, Teresa Brewer, Gabby Hayes, Candice Bergen.
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Over rated: Pro wrestling, John Madden, Dennis Rodman.
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Way over rated: Colin Farrell.
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Quote: "I find ‘Season's Greetings’ so insipid. It is barely one step up from ‘Dear Sir,’ isn't it? Have you ever in your life heard anyone say ‘Season's Greetings?’ I didn't think so. If you don't say something, please don't write it on a card." ---Frank Deford
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Business 101: No matter how late you work, always arrive at work on time.
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Hmmmm: How do you display an easel?
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Quote: "As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it." ---Dick Cavett
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Absolute truism: The people in the field are the true heroes of most business organizations.
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Rave: I truly admire people who can use chopsticks.
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Never forget: It is your credibility on the line when you give a recommendation.
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I miss: Johnny Unitas and the black high tops, Tyrone Power, Glenn Ford, Phil Silvers, Bob Cummings.
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Rave: Robert B. Parker is a master at putting together the character, plot and dialogue combo.
His fourth Sunny Randall novel, "Melancholy Baby" is no exception. What’s not to like?
Sunny is a dynamic, thirty-seven year old Boston PI from a law enforcement family. She has plenty of baggage and a dog that gets much too much attention…but is resourceful and is surrounded by a marvelously drawn, frequently eccentric supporting cast.
The dialogue is sizzling and witty---the chatter scintillates. The colloquy is magic, snappy, cadenced and crisp.
The characters sparkle, especially Eugene Corsetti, a NY cop. He is a classic---arrogant, astute and full of attitude. I hope he reappears in future Parker novels.
The solution to the puzzle is no shocker…but the journey is such a fun ride you are addicted all the way to the final page.
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Free advice: When the alternative is "now" or "never"---always choose "never."
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More free advice: You need to ask the right questions to get the right answers.
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Oh so true: No software you ever bought did anything with "just a click."
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Remarks people will thank you for making: "Half-mast, pal," about the green something on their teeth, what color brings out her eyes.
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Remarks no one will thank you for making: "I used to go out with her too," "Gosh, you look tired."
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Five necessities you can never find that start with the letter S: Scissors, studs, shoehorns, shoelaces, Saran Wrap.
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Born this day: Ava Gardner, Kit Carson, Howard Hughes, Michael Curtiz.

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That is all.
As you were.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 281

Wednesday, December 22, 2004—485 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 51 seconds
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Rave: Jack Jones
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Rant: By writing a book about her involvement with Scott Peterson, Amber Frey is taking tacky to an all-time high…or low as the case may be.
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Rave: Being able to renew my Florida driver’s license and automobile tag on line…and getting the license and tag within seven working days.
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Hmmmm: Why do fat chance and slim chance mean the same thing?
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Rave: High marks to Charles Osgood who skewered the PC crusade to replace the word "Christmas" with "holiday." Especially interesting since it occurred on the liberal-Dan Rather-CBS Network. He demonstrated the foolishness with such examples as: "I’m Dreaming of a White Holiday," "A Holiday Carol," "We Wish You a Merry Holiday" and "All I Want for Holiday Is My Two Front Teeth" among others.
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Rave: Good for Chris Matthews (closing his NBC Sunday show) and Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" for taking similar stands on this crusade that some would call misguided.
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Have no interest in: Meet the Fockers, Ocean’s Twelve, Spanglish, Lemony Snicket, Blade:Trinity, Christmas with the Kranks, Alexander.
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Under Rated: Lila McCann, Little Richard, Eli Wallach, Louis Prima, University of Arkansas Men’s Basketball Team.
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Rave: No matter how great the vocalist, they all sounded better with the Basie Band behind them.
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Just asking: Why do airlines call flights nonstop? Won't they all stop eventually?
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Quote: "A centipede is an ant made to government specs." ---Anon.
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Over Rated: Eminem, Ozzy Osbourne, Lucy Liu.
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Way Over Rated: Ludacris.
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Always a high standard: George Will, Dale Turner, Woody Allen, Michael McDonald, Walt Disney, and Larry Bird.
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Factoid: The Birdman of Alcatraz never kept any birds during his seventeen years on The Rock. He had them while incarcerated at Leavenworth.
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I Will Miss: "NYPD Blue" will have its jersey retired on March first of next year. There are nine more original episodes on deck. It has been a spectacular twelve-year run---many awards and superb characters. It always set a high standard. It is doubtful that in today’s "instant ratings or die" network mentality that "Blue" would get renewed for a second season.
Today, something this good would start on cable.
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We all do it: How come we press harder on a remote control when we know the battery is dead?

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I miss: "M Squad." "Richard Diamond, Private Detective," "77 Sunset Strip" and Humprey Bogart.
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Quote: "Publicity is like poison; it doesn't hurt unless you swallow it." ---Joe Paterno
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Hmmmm: What color is a chameleon on a mirror? +++++++
Rave: Every time Turner Classic Movies shows their "100 Years at the Movies" short I sit transfixed and marvel at how great the movies were at one time. The computer-generated action used today leaves me cold.
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Born this day: Hoagy Carmichael, Wiley Post, Doris Duke, Connie Mack, Gene Rayburn, Barbara Billingsly, Diane Sawyer, Steve Garvey.
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That is all.
As you were.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Curmudgeon In The Wry 280

Saturday, December 18, 2004—635 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 22 seconds
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Rave: Peter Marshall
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Rant: The next time there is a war in Europe, the loser has to keep France.
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Hmmmm: If there was a crumb on the table and you cut it in half, would you have two crumbs or two halves of a crumb?

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Quote: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."---Sherlock Holmes.
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Rant: Pedro Martinez----$54 million----100 pitches or six innings, whichever comes first. Such a deal!
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Hmmmm: Hardly anyone has a globe at home anymore.
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Truism: If you ever wish to feel inadequate, try hanging wallpaper.
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Question: Do you know your hat size? Your ring size?
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I Miss: Baseball hats being worn correctly (brim facing forward); true shorts on basketball players; pitchers tossing complete games; knock-knock jokes.
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Rant: At Wal-Mart, I wonder what the other 15 checkout lanes are used for.
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Rave: In Michael Crichton’s "State of Fear" the narrative punch is derived from reality. His comprehensively thorough and meticulous bibliography and appendices back up the theories proposed in the novel. Dr. Crichton has done his homework.
The extensive research (fastidiously footnoted) contradicts environmental concerns most people believe and fear, and casts those preoccupied about global warming as gullible pawns of Hollywood and environmentalists.
While the bad guys in the novel are particularly odious, it is the PLM (politico-legal-media complex) that is the true villain. The PLM is the new military-industrial complex. The PLM promotes fear in the population under the appearance of promoting safety.
Rouge members of a high profile environmental activist group (NERF) are set to manipulate and amplify a series of natural disasters to occur simultaneously with their massive media conference---allowing their prophesies to appear authentic.
It is up to a ragtag band of scientists, a billionaire philanthropist and lawyers using a multitude of high tech toys to uncover the scheme. The brilliantly conceived ticking clock scenario bristles with clarity and plausibility.
The articulate cast of protagonists leaps to life as the puzzle pieces lock into place and the chase is on.
"State of Fear" is a consistently exciting and suspenseful tale, as well as a serious thriller.
After you finish "State of Fear" it becomes difficult to accept on faith much of what you will hear or read about global warming and other environmental catastrophes.
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Under Rated: Spin and Marty, Woody Herman, Michel Legrand.
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Just Asking: What was Captain Hook's name before he had a hook for a hand?
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Hmmmm: How come they never list the weight of the members of women’s basketball team in the game program?
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Over Rated: Jude Law, Buddy Rich, New York Times, Dr. Phil.
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Way Over Rated: Bryant Gumble.
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Rant: College football’s Bowl Championship Series is neither a series, nor a championship.
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Rant: Five of this season’s bowl games feature a pair of 6-5 teams doing battle. The Mediocre Bowl, The So-So Bowl, The Average Bowl, The C Student Bowl, and The Middling Bowl. What a joke!
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Always a high standard: Les Brown, Gregory Peck, Van Johnson.
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Factoid: The top of the Washington Monument is capped with a metal, then considered rare, that today is used to wrap leftovers---that is correct, aluminum.
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Hmmm: Do stairs go up or down?
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Rant: Always be skeptical of people who say, "frankly," "candidly" or "to be honest." They are probably are none of those things.
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Rimshot: A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."
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Irony: Why are the commercials for cable companies on cable but not on regular television? Don't they want the people without cable to buy the cable?
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Born this day: Betty Grable, Fletcher Henderson, Brad Pitt, Leonard Maltin, Sir Steven Spielberg, Ossie Davis, Ty Cobb, Ray Liotta.
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That is all.
As you were.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 279

Sunday, December 12, 2004—540 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 56 seconds
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Rave: John McCain.
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Rant: Barbara Walters, it is time to retire when you think Paris Hilton is the most interesting person in 2004.
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FYI: The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government does not pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home. Many will be there throughout the holidays. Really support our troops --Send phone cards of any amount to: Medical Family Assistance CenterWalter Reed Medical Center6900 Georgia Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20307-5001
I have checked this out and it is legit…the cards will make a bunch of brave kids happy. It is better than a ribbon on your SUV.+++++++
Rant: The more lights a person has on the front end of their car is inversely proportional to the lights they have on inside their head.
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Times, they are a’ changin’: How about R. Crumb having the cover of The New Yorker? That is a long way from the Zap Comix of the sixties.
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Factoid: The New York Times released their list of the 100 Notable Books of 2004.My unbroken streak of being 180 degrees out of the touch with the literati continues, as I had not read even one of them…and I have read over a hundred book so far in 2004.+++++++
Under Rated: Jay Bilas, Daniel Ewing, Jane Pauley.
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Over Rated: Donald Trump, Katie Couric, University of Florida men’s basketball team.
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Always a high standard: Coach K.
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Rave: "Whiteout" by Ken Follett, a contemporary thriller set in Scotland, conveys a refreshing and horrifying spin to the stolen deadly virus scenario.
As the caper is completed, a monster snowstorm shuts everything down…frustrating the security chief (Toni Gallo) of Scotland’s largest pharmaceuticals company in her struggle to track down the villains.
In addition to the brutal weather, an obstinate local cop refuses to cooperate until Scotland Yard applies pressure…granting the thieves a lengthy head start.
Mr. Follett deftly weaves the multiple plot lines together. Many a shocking plot twists keeps the pages turning, as the terrifying terrorist plot is unraveled.
Plenty of action, tension, colorful and well-developed characters in this most suspenseful ticking clock novel.
Perfect for airline reading.
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Truth in advertising: If the tree has been sawed off above the roots it is not a live tree.
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I miss: Earl Weaver, Smarty Jones, Boomtown, film noir.
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Rave: Dennis Miller had Frank Deford on his show Friday (12/10) and it was spectacular. Sure to be repeated…look for it---you will not be disappointed.
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Rant: If you are going to drive like the devil, remove the fish from your car!
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Hmmmm: If the price of crude oil is going up, why is gas so high, but motor oil unchanged?
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Sportsman of the Year: While I am a fan of the Red Sox, what about Roger Federer? The Swiss tennis champion won eleven tournaments (three of four Grand Slams) and was undefeated versus Top Ten players. And, he did it all with class and style.
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Born this day: Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Bob Barker, Connie Francis, Tracey Austin, Casey Cleavage, Honor Blackman.
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That is all.
As you were.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 278

Friday, December 19, 2004—534 words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 59 seconds
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Rave: Coyote Calhoun, HOF.
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Over Rated: Rappers, Ben Affleck, The Apprentice, the 18-34 demo, deep fried turkey, Desperate Housewives, James Patterson.
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Way over rated: Chris Berman.
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Far and away the most over rated: Black as a fashion statement.
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Under rated: American Dreams, Third Watch, George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, Stacey Dales-Schuman, Rece Davis, Karl Revech.
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Always a high standard: Jon Miller, Michael Connelly, James W. Hall, Tom Cruise, Rod Stewart.
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Rant: Ron Artest and Barry Bonds should be sharing a jail cell. In the adjoining cell should be Bud Selig and Don Fehr.
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Factoid: Harry Truman is the last president who did not go to college.
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Rave: Do not miss Nelson DeMille’s "Night Fall" if fast-pacing, witty dialogue, surprising turns and sophisticated writing wrapped around a conspiracy theory is your cup of tea.
Former NYPD detective John Cory returns. He is now a contract employee for the Anti Terrorism Task Force. Corey is cynical, sarcastic, politically incorrect, self-deprecating, street smart and anti-authority…my type of guy.
Corey’s wife, Kate Mayfield (FBI lawyer on the same task force) takes him to a memorial service for the fifth anniversary of the crash of TWA Flight 800.
Corey and Kate are convinced the government arrived at their conclusion too quickly and too conveniently. Corey, always concerned with justice, sets off on his own renegade investigation.
A particularly arrogant senior FBI agent warns Kate and Corey not to question the official version. That ensures that Corey will be relentless in his pursuit of the truth.
Any more would give away too much of this muscular thriller.
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Truism: Nobody looks good while eating.
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Rant: Artificial logs are just not acceptable.
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Just curious: If you could go through a shorter security line at the airport by allowing law enforcement agencies check your background beforehand, would you do it?
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Rave: I think it is entirely possible that the University of North Carolina can do what U-Conn did last season---win both the men’s and women’s NCAA Basketball championships. Roy Williams needs to keep his star laden individuals focused on team goals for the next four months. Sylvia Hatchell (women’s coach) is average at best---but with Ivory Latta and Camille Little on the floor this team is fierce.
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Rave: I agree with Frank Deford about starting the women’s college basketball season a month before the men’s. That would allow the women to have their NCAA Tournament in February when no other major sporting event conflicts. ESPN networks carried every game last season, but everyone was watching the men’s conference tourneys and run to the Final Four.
The women’s game gets more competitive each season. No longer is there just one elite program (Tennessee)---at least two dozen teams are now playing at an upper echelon level.
And, each year there are more blonde ponytails on the court---always a plus for TV and Madison Avenue.
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Hmmmm: Is it really possible to dissolve a pearl in a glass of champagne? And, why would you want to?
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If anyone finds a scarf, it is mine!
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Born this day: Dorothy Lamour, Chet Huntley, Emily Dickinson, Tommy Rettig, Gloria Loring.
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That is all
As you were.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 277

Thursday, November 25, 2004—608 words---Average reading time: 2-minute, 18 seconds
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Rave: Lena Horne
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Quote: "When in doubt, have two men enter a room with guns." ---Raymond Chandler.
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Rant: It is never permissible to dog-ear the page of a book.
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Hmmmm: At what age were you the most attractive? And, if you think you have not reached it yet, you are most likely kidding yourself.
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Rant: The cost of parking overnight in a hotel garage has gotten totally insane.
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Hmmmm: If there any difference between a root beer float and a Black Cow, I am unable to discern it.
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Rave: Pfeffernusse.
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Rant: The NBA would be well served to spend less time talking about the thug Artest and more about formed Duke great Grant Hill, who is enjoying a great start after being sidelined for most of three seasons with at least four different ankle surgeries.
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Quote: "They said everything to Jackie Robinson in 1947. If he did not go into the stands, no one is allowed to go into the stands."—Celtics coach Doc Robinson.
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Rant: Where is it written that alcohol needs to be served at sporting events?
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Book BIZ: At best, a Cee Minus for David Baldacci’s "Hour Game."
It starts out promising with the return of ex-Secret Service agents turned PIs, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. They were terrific in "Split Second" and still have some savoir-faire.
However they are placed in a bloated plot that is filled with one contrivance after another. Even I do not possess the ability to suspend my disbelief this much.
Ludicrous situations and resolutions abound. When, in a shootout, the two bullets collide---well, you almost lose your sanity.
If you like thrillers that offer sound reasoning, elan, plausibility or profoundness this is not for you.
It win this quarter’s James Patterson Pathetic Thriller Sweepstake.
He phoned it in.
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Rave: The opening credits to "Catch Me If You Can" are as good as any movie released in the past ten years. Leave it to the folks at Dreamworks.
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Rant: As a rule, whenever you check into a hotel and the desk clerk tells you that he is giving you an especially nice room, he is invariably lying.
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Just asking: When is the last time you heard a really good marching band? And, when was the last time you really wanted to?
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Pop quiz: Quick…name the only state whose first two letters are vowels.
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Rave: I truly admire people who know how wrap packages flawlessly.
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Rant: How was it that the party of Lincoln in the Land of Lincoln could not come up with a competitive candidate for the U.S. Senate?
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Quote: "The promise of mystery fiction is that some sort of justice is achieved. Something has been accomplished, some wrong has been righted."—Laura Lippman.
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Rant: It drives me crazy every time The New York Times refers to Osama bin Laden on the second reference as "Mr. bin Laden." How many people do you have to murder before you lose the "Mr."?
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Things everybody gets wrong: Mano a mano does not mean man-to-man or one-on-one. It is Spanish for hand-to-hand.
One does not stand behind a podium. One stands on it. One stands behind a lectern.
A wooden house cannot be dilapidated. Dilapidated applies only to objects made of stone.
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Hmmmm: What if it turns out carbs are good for you?
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Quote: "The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you are finished."—John Corey in Nelson DeMille’s last spectacular read, "Night Fall."
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Born this day: Lenny Moore, Joe DiMaggio, Jeffrey Hunter, John F. Kennedy Jr., Joe Gibbs, Ben Stein.
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That is all
As you were.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 276

Tuesday, November 09, 2004—619 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 08 seconds
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Rave: SHeDAISY’s "Come Home Soon."
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Quote: "Well…I guess the majority felt Jesus was a better role model than Michael Moore." ---Don Imus.
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Rant: Think it is about time for Michael Moore to start bathing on a regular basis?
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Hmmmm: How did glove compartments get their name? When were gloves deemed so important that they deserved their own compartment? And, why keep your gloves in the car, where they will get cold.
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Don’t you agree: Really classy eateries give you liquid sugar for your iced tea.
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Rave: Zell Miller had a couple of classic zingers on Imus 11/9 that I wish I been clever enough to think up. He called left wing bomb thrower Maureen Dowd, Maureen Loud and referred to her as a "high brow hussy." What a wonderful turn of phrase! Amen, Zell.
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Hmmmm: If you say you never swiped anything off a maid’s cart, I say I do not believe you.
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Alert: Always examine your credit card bill carefully. Hotels love to sneak in phony "mimibar" charges on your card long after your have left the building.
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Survey: If you can name Ralph Nader’s running mate, you are most likely following politics a bit too closely.
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Hmmmm: Why do dry cleaners always refer you clothes as garments?
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Rant: Do not let the celebrity TV shows dupe you: Texas hold ‘em is an amazingly dull form of poker.
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Rave: The limited edition Hershey’s Double Chocolate bar. Creamy milk chocolate with a dark chocolate filling.
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Rant: Methinks the liberal left media and the Kerry braintrust misunderestimated us. So many of those who think they are actually "elite" media thought us to be rubes who are not able to read a book. Their mistake was equating not standing in the driveway at the crack of dawn awaiting the morning delivery of the New York Times in order to hang on every word poison-penned by Maureen Down with a room temperature IQ. Better luck next time on reading the room.
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Overbooked: A solid A for "Garden of Beasts" by Jeffery Deaver. Set against the backdrop of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, it seamlessly combines factual and fictional characters. A US government agency promises mobster hitman Paul Schumann forgiveness if he will eliminate Hitler’s architect of rearmament.
A cover set up and the chase is on. The feeling of 1936 Germany is an important character as is Schumann’s antagonist turned accomplice, German policeman Willi Kohl.
Red herrings abound and the twists and turns are addictively tantalizing.
A Plus for T. Jefferson Parker’s incredible "California Girl." Stylish and engaging, it transports you back to 1968 in Orange County (and up to present day)…again mixing real life characters (Dick Nixon, Tim Leary, Charles Manson) with a fictional cast of vividly sketched characters.
The three Becker brothers (a cop, a crime reporter and a minister) have an intense commitment to finding the truth about a decapitated friend from their teenage years.
Their search for the facts leads to compromise, concessions and exposure of the brother’s secrets.
It is a subtle, sophisticated, cerebral novel with justice the overruling topic…no matter how long it may take.
A well-crafted look back at a period of time that fashioned a generation told in a most intriguing manner.
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Rant: And speaking of reading a book…the next book Maureen Dowd needs to read is one of the many diet books on her own New York Times best seller list.
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Rave: If you missed John Stewart’s appearance on "Crossfire,’ you missed one of live TV’s wackiest moments.
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Born this day: Claude Rains, Martin Luther, Richard Burton, Roy Scheider, Donna Fargo.
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That is all.
As you were.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 275

Thursday, November 04, 2004—513 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 58 seconds
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Rave: Natalie Wood
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Rant: Missing the NHL season is a dare America is more than willing to accept.
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Hmmm: Can I buy an entire chess set in a pawnshop?
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Quote: "There is no greater thief than a bad book."---Old Italian saying.
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Rave & Rant: Why do I know that the History Channel’s production of "Alexander the Great" will be far more enjoyable than the one coming soon to a multiplex near you. The History Channel is using real people for the battle scenes as opposed to computer graphics.
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Absolutely: When a place of worship houses weapons and terrorists, it is no longer "sacred."
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Rant: If you want the government to tell you when to take your kids trick-or-treating, then government should take your kids
+++++++
Rimshot: I just found a box of Tic Tacs buried in a drawer. And they're still in mint condition!
+++++++
Rant: It's hard for me to believe that anyone would pay to listen to Howard Stern
+++++++
Rave: The Rod Stewart Great American Songbook III is brilliant. The duet with Dolly Parton is inspired.
+++++++
Attention, cellphone users: That phone can be turned off while dining in a public place.
+++++++
Rave: When it was all said and done the American public decided the junior senator from Massachusetts was strictly junior varsity.
+++++++
Truism: If you call America Online for help, you will not talk to anyone from America
+++++++
Rimshot II: Do you suppose the Grim Reaper's hairstylist has ever had a brush with death?
+++++++
Rave: The final tally showed that majority could care less about what Maureen Dowd, Michael Moore and the rest of the liberal, left, elite media have to say.
+++++++
Truism II: Marriage is the process of finding out what type of man your wife would have preferred.
+++++++
Generation gap: I never bought into the theory that the cell phone youth demo would ride to the Kerry rescue. Casual observation of this group tells one they are America’s most self-absorbed generation. Only a mental patient could envision a scenario where they would spend more than a nano-second waiting to vote…let alone an hour or more. Hard to tear them away from themselves.
+++++++
Hmmmm: When did the yellow in the traffic light become "continue" instead of "caution"?
+++++++
Rave: The XM Radio Portable XM2go receiver got my attention. They may get me with this version. MLB on XM is a far better bet than NFL on Sirius.
+++++++
Bottom line: Game 5 of the Yankees-Red Sox series drew bigger TV ratings in the Boston metro area than the last Super Bowl that featured the Patriots ... in case you were wondering which franchise owns New England’s heart.
+++++++
Hmmm: Interestingly, the longest word you can type using only one row of keys is typewriter.
+++++++
Truism III: You know that you are getting old when you hear a woman talk about working the polls and you never even think about a strip club.
+++++++
Born this day: Laura Bush, Loretta Swit, Martin Balsam, Art Carney, Walter Cronkite, Will Rogers.
+++++++
That is all.
As you were.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

James Ellroy Appearance in Durham, NC

Friday nite (10/15) I attended a talk and signing by James Ellroy at Regulator Books in Durham, NC.
I have struggled with the three Ellroy books I have read----they were all chores for me. Since I enjoy so many of the LA crime writers and he has a superb reputation, I know I am missing something.
So, I hoped this appearance might encourage me to try again if I had more insight.
He is a dynamic speaker with a self-deprecating sense of humor with a most entertaining style.
He is easily the most passionate speaker for an author that I have seen.
Odds and ends from his Q&A---
He has the highest regard for the LAPD, and is in favor of proactive police work (as am I).
Was arrested at 18 for stealing booze and fleeing the scene.
Researches by reading a lot of old LAPD files and LA Sheriff Department files.
The Bible and Confidential Magazine were early influences.
He considers himself a formalist---is religious and a moralist.
Listens almost exclusively to classical music.
Early Wambaugh was an influence. Thinks only three writers really understand how to write about men---Wambaugh, Hammett and he himself.
His overriding theme is "bad men in love with strong women."
"LA Confidential" the movie was about 20% of his book.
In true crime he considers the investigation more interesting than the trial aspect. I agree.
"Crime derives from individual moral forfeit---most folks are decent.
Wants to be to the LAPD in 2005 what Jack Webb was to LAPD in the 1950’s.
He still writes by hand…no computer/no typewriter.
It was a wonderful evening. It is great to experience a curmudgeonly, politically incorrect, red state writer---all qualities I find admirable.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry 274

Sunday, October 03, 2004—562 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 58 seconds
+++++++
Rave: Coleman Hawkins
+++++++
TV timeout: Tried watching Hu$tle, ESPN’s original movie about Pete Rose, but I could not get past the Beatles wig.
+++++++
Rant: The Expos belong to the Capital now, but if anybody can screw this up, it is the D.C. government.
+++++++
Rant: You can understand how Orioles fans might see this plan by Major League Baseball to keep Peter Angelos’ coffers full as a virtual guarantee that the Birds will add to their streak of seven consecutive losing seasons. If the owners are subsidizing the O’s, what is Angelos’ incentive for fielding a better team?
+++++++
Hmmm: I am willing to bet that you have desk drawers you have not opened in recent memory.
+++++++
Truisms: Three things that are absolutely useless to tell other people: "Just relax," "Try not to think about it" and "Don’t worry."
+++++++
Just wondering: When was the last time you saw someone using a coin changer like the Good Humor man used to use?
+++++++
Rant: One reason people scream into their cell phones is because they cannot hear their own voice in the earpiece like on a regular phone. Seems like a feature some enterprising tech company should invent.
+++++++
Rant: On the same subject---has anyone ever really pressed 5 to leave a call back number?
+++++++
Just the facts: 2000 was not the closest U.S. presidential election. The popular vote margin was five times greater than JFK’s margin over Nixon. Bush won by five electoral votes---Rutherford B. Hayes won by one vote in 1876.
+++++++
Hmmm: Do police dispatchers still say, "Calling all cars"?
+++++++
Rave: When you think about, has Dan Rather not been nuts for years?
+++++++
Rant: Every restaurant review ought to inform you as to how noisy the place is and whether human speech is in the realm of possibility.
+++++++
Rave: Reconsider root beer. Contains no caffeine.
+++++++
Rant: Strollers are becoming like SUVs. They keep getting bigger and bigger, yet babies are staying about the same size.
+++++++
Book Raves: "The Exile" by Allan Folsom is a BeePlus…not as good as his "Day After Tomorrow", but a thrilling ride.
"Mortal Allies" by Brian Haig also a BeePlus with cynical, sardonic, witty Sean Drummond back in fine form.
A BeePlus for Anthony nominee "The Delicate Storm" by Giles Blunt---a new author to me and I will read his other works.
Another Anthony nominee that gets a BeePlus is William Lashner’s "Fatal Flaw"---stunning twists and turns in a wonderful narrative of duplicity and homicide.
High marks to the first Tim Cockey novel. "The Hearse You Came In On" is a devious, tongue-in-cheek cleverly written mystery set lovingly in Baltimore.
+++++++
Rave: Driving down a two-lane road with nobody in front of you.
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Truism II: It is easy to have your cake and eat it, too. What is difficult is to eat your cake and have it, too.
+++++++
Hmmm: Do butterflies have any natural predators? If not, why have they not taken over the world?
+++++++
Truism III: For most airplane movies, it makes no difference whether you use the headset or not.
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Rant: How come you never look to see which side the gas tank is on before you get in the rental car?
+++++++
Truism IV: If you are old enough to drive, you are too old to trick-or-treat.
+++++++
Born this day:
+++++++
That is all.
As you were.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A Jolt from Jeanne

Somebody up there likes me…version 3.0
The devastation wrought by Jeanne in my town was greater than that of Charley and Frances combined.
In sum, 37,000 cubic yards of debris were removed from the area for Charley and Frances. The estimates for Jeanne alone are 40,000.
The ground is so soaked that the shallow rooted trees have nothing to hold them. Water oaks, laurel oaks, pine, magnolias uprooted on every corner.
From 5 AM Sunday morning until 3 PM that afternoon (ten solid hours) the wind varied from whistling to howling nonstop. It is the most frightened I have ever been. The rain was greater than the other two added together.
A neighbor’s 35 year old huge water oak was uprooted and landed mostly in my yard…wiping out many of my crepe myrtles, destroying a large section of my seven foot ligustrum hedge, and countless ornamentals. Since it missed both our homes, it goes down as a lucky break.
His final 35-year-old water oak is about to go as the roots are above ground…it is leaning my way as well.
I lost many limbs and branches…none of massive variety.
My largest scare was a thirty-foot laurel oak that was swaying back and forth during the heavy winds. After my neighbor’s tree fell, my tree became the first one up from the lake---no more buffer.
I was beyond fortunate to get to another neighbor who is in the tree trimming business that night and tell him my tale of woe. Even with all the emergency situations he and his crews had to address, he had a full crew at my house first thing Monday morning to remove the tree. His diagnosis was that the root ball was about burst thru and the tree would have probably hit the house. I could not have been luckier.
I was without power for only twenty-nine hours…another blessing.
With my neighbor’s trees and my oak gone, sun is available where it has not been seen in a decade. That is true of the entire town. Before Charley this place was a tree sanctuary…shade everywhere with very mature trees of every description…a veritable Eden.
Driving around now it looks like a war zone, and when I first got out and about clean up had been going on for at least half a day.
From the prep time before Charley until Jeanne’s final outer band cleared out, the Orlando area has been on hurricane alert or enduring a hurricane for seven weeks---endlessly. It has been grueling, exhausting, fatiguing, trying and wearisome. The entire populace is feeling the effects of all the stress and anxiety…during World War I they called it shell shock…during WWII it was known as battle fatigue…it is the same sort of thing here.
I travel up and the streets passing out bottled water to all the clean up and electric company personnel. They are amazing…most from other states. Today alone, I passed water out to crews from New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Kentucky. They are up before dawn and work past dark and never complain. One crew has been away from home for twenty-seven days---were half way home when they were called back.
I wish the local TV stations would do stories on these guys…I think we all know what the destruction of the beaches look like, we know what smashed trailer parks look like---we do not need to see the same sensationalized shots ad infinitum. Not when there are a couple thousand workers from out of state helping to restore our lives who have a positive and uplifting story to tell.
The Orlando area has taken on three powerhouse hurricanes and I feel it is God’s way of telling me to move to Chapel Hill. I think I will take the hint. This is too high a price to pay for paradise. I have been spared the worst, but do not be surprised when my address becomes nobizinnc@aol.com.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Fury of Frances in Central Florida

Somebody Up There Likes Me---Version 2.0
Once again my immediate area and I were spared the greatest fury from Frances.
From the time we were assured that Central Florida would get hit, until we learned Frances finally departed yesterday, a week had passed.
It approached slowly, moved tediously over the area and was most reluctant to go. Even after it moved into the Gulf of Mexico, the Orlando area continued to receive feeder band full of gusty winds and fierce rains.
It was easily the most anxiety filled week of my life ---and I experienced my initial hurricane in 1960.
I lost power for less than 24 hours, never lost the phone and got cable back in about two days.
Major damage was about fifteen to twenty feet of the top of my tallest oak (35-40 years old) were sheared off. It looked like a toothpick broken in half. It completely blocked my driveway…far better than going the other way and striking the house.
So I was trapped on Sunday as Frances was with us all day.
One neighbor took her daughter and rode it out in a more secure location. I was in charge of walking her dog…while walking the dog Monday morning I bumped into another neighbor whose wonderful forty year old spreading water oak was uprooted (and snapping the power lines). He was gassing up his generator. As I left, he said he would be right over with his chain saw to help me clear the driveway. Truly a Good Samaritan.
At 61, it is not time for me to learn the ins and outs of a chain saw…so what would have taken me all day was done in an hour.
Although Charley had cleared out a lot of trees in the community, Frances attacked a few more of the most outstanding oaks, some of National Park quality. The long soaking rains weakened the ground and the shallow root systems were no matched for the winds that came and went for 36 to 48 hours.
Services were restored very quickly in my opinion. The first responders and emergency people had their Charley game plan and improved it. They learned a lot and got it right immediately this time.
I also feel the public was more than willing to heed the warnings this time---with Charley so fresh in the memory.
Looters and curfew violators in Orange County went directly the 33rd Street Jail…and I hope they have a long residency.
Fortuitously, the stories of good fellowship and neighborliness far outnumber the tales of the miscreants and bottom feeders.
This time, however, I have been approached by drive by tree removal scammers lurking thru the neighborhood. They disappeared when I requested to see their contractor’s license and asked if they would mind waiting while I checked with the local police department to see if their credentials checked out.
This was not a fun time and everyone I know is worn out mentally from the apprehension, trepidation and fear that spread out over the extended week.
Now we must be on guard for Ivan…and that one is two or three days away from a halfway decent estimate of where it will make landfall. If Ivan hits Orlando, I think I shall move to Chapel Hill.
It is a major blessing that I was kept from the worst Frances had to offer and I am grateful beyond words. I prayed, knocked on wood and crossed my fingers…and will continue to do so.
And now I am off to get my Xanax refilled.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

"Close to Home" by Peter Robinson review

Peter Robinson’s "Close to Home" is a gem…one sensational read. Reading it is like watching an exquisite ballplayer at work…he makes the writing look so easy that only a thoughtful examination will clue you in as to how ingenious the writing is.

Chief Inspector Alan Banks is called home from vacation when a body dumped in 1965 is unearthed. Turns out the body is that of Graham Marshall, a boyhood pal of CI Banks.

In his own district, Banks is investigating a missing person, turned kidnapping, turned homicide. The victim is a teenager, about the same age as was Graham Marshall when he disappeared.

"They were linked in his mind in some odd way. Not technically, of course. But two very different boys from very different times had ended up dead before their time, and both had died violently."

Banks has able assistants in both cases: Michelle Hart in the Marshall case and Annie Cabbot on the current case.

The police procedural on both matters is detailed, captivating and all three detectives have an instinct for crime solving.

Banks is a keen observer of humanity and a man of integrity…a marvelous protagonist. In each case the whydunit will uncover whodunit.

I plan to go back and read the entire series. This is the first British mystery that has grabbed my attention in forever.

The pages absolutely glided by.

Curmudgeon in the Wry 272

Wednesday, August 18, 2004—595 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 05 seconds
+++++++
Rave: Chris Noel
+++++++
Rave: The Central Florida YMCA opening its doors to hurricane victims offering "hot showers and air conditioning"---at no charge.
+++++++
Rave: One of the guys who swims at the same aquatic center as I do owns three upscale hotels in prime Disney/Universal territory knocked the rate to a third ($42.50) for Florida residents needing a place to stay…and the kids eat free.
+++++++
Rave: Cannot believe how quickly Publix refilled its shelves with water and batteries. Home Depot reloading as fast as the trucks arrive. Both outlets restocking around the clock.
Rave: Equally remarkable is just how promptly the county got the traffic lights working. However, they are way out of sync. No matter, getting them running was a yeoman’s effort.
+++++++
Rant: Looters should be shot on sight…and a medal given to the marksman.
+++++++
Rant: The price gougers should be incarcerated immediately and lost in the system for a couple of weeks. It is extortion and ought to be treated as such.
+++++++
Rave: Peter Robinson’s "Close to Home" is a gem…one sensational read. Reading it is like watching an exquisite ballplayer at work…he makes the writing look so easy that only a thoughtful examination will clue you in as to how ingenious the writing is.
Chief Inspector Alan Banks is called home from vacation when a body dumped in 1965 is unearthed. Turns out the body is that of Graham Marshall, a boyhood pal of CI Banks.
In his own district, Banks is investigating a missing person, turned kidnapping, turned homicide. The victim is a teenager, about the same age as was Graham Marshall when he disappeared.
"They were linked in his mind in some odd way. Not technically, of course. But two very different boys from very different times had ended up dead before their time, and both had died violently."
Banks has able assistants in both cases: Michelle Hart in the Marshall case and Annie Cabbot on the current case. The police procedural on both matters is detailed, captivating and all three detectives have an instinct for crime solving.
Banks is a keen observer of humanity and a man of integrity…a marvelous protagonist. In each case the whydunit will uncover whodunit.
I plan to go back and read the entire series. This is the first British mystery that has grabbed my attention in forever. The pages absolutely glided by.
+++++++
Rant: When you drive around the gym parking lot for ten minutes looking for the closest spot, clearly the whole gym concept has eluded you.
+++++++
Quote: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." ---E.L Doctorow
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Rant: The happiest ending in some movies is when those seated near you are finished eating their popcorn.
+++++++
Hmmmm: Looking through my history books, I simply do not find instances where nations planned the aftermath prior to engaging in war.
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Rant: With all of the news in the world, I just cannot understand why 50 percent of the TV coverage is about an alleged rape and two murders. It shows how the media perceives its audience.
+++++++
Free advice: To the USA Basketball team coaches—next Olympics, bring a point guard!
+++++++
Rant: I thought we watched TV shows to escape reality, not see it.
+++++++
Born this day: Jill St. John, Willie Shoemaker, Malcomb Forbes, Ogden Nash, Orville Wright, Gene Roddenberry, Coco Chanel, Debra Paget.
+++++++
That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Charley---Just west of Orlando

Somebody Up There Likes Me
I am most fortunate to have dodged a bullet.
Branch, limb and some damage to ornamentals are all I suffered. It will take some more time to clean up the mess...took about four hours to clear the driveway and a small area beside it.
My immediate area (two houses each way) had the same result---just a mess, but no damage to property or person.
The power went out a little before 9 PM on Friday the thirteenth. It was scary before that with the roar of the wind. The media did a superb job of getting out the word that this would be serious.
In fact, the Infinity stations all simulcasted the local Fox TV affiliate's hurricane coverage. That was great, as all that I had was a portable radio and a flashlight.
They say there are no atheists in foxholes---I think the same applies to hurricanes.
Saturday morning started the ongoing cleanup project. Low tech for me, as I would never endanger myself by using a chain saw.
About midday it was almost surreal when an Orange County Sheriff's Department patrol car rolled thru the area using its loudspeaker to broadcast, "All Windermere residents are to go inside their homes. Progress Energy will begin working to restore power within the hour. We want all residents away from any downed power lines." I felt like Montag in "Fahrenheit 451."
I was an obedient citizen. But, after about an hour and a half I saw that it was business as usual outside with traffic and people cleaning up.
So I finally got in my car and ventured out to see the damage in the area. I probably covered an area ten blocks by six blocks. It was devastating to see fifty-year-old oaks uprooted like tinker toys, pine trees that looked like matchsticks.
My overwhelming impression was just how both arbitrary and random the damage was. One house would have a tree thru the roof---next door was undamaged---the next house would have a tree down that fell away from the house.
Exactly one block from my house a neighbor had a pine go down that set off a chain reaction knocking down two more huge pines---the final pine knocked over a very mature oak that crashed into a wonderful old Florida cottage style home made of Dade County pine.
It was impossible to drive more than about three blocks before a downed tree made you detour left or right. Going from point A to point B was like navigating a maze.
I must say that it is remarkable how quickly Progress Energy got power back. I was down only 36 1/2 hours. It will be up to two weeks in some areas.
Equally as remarkable is how quickly the roads have been cleared. The emergency crews were ready.
It was an intimidating experience as a hurricane has majestic power. I went thru my first Florida hurricane in 1960 and never have I seen devastation like this. The Orlando area may not have been ground zero, but it was close enough---and closeness counts in hurricanes.
I have counted my blessings and given thanks informally and formally. I and those in my immediate area were more than lucky.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Review "Black" by Christopher Whitcomb

If you enjoy the black helicopter, conspiracy theory, paranoid thrillers, then Christopher Whitcomb’s "Black" is right up your alley.

Mr. Whitcomb writes what he knows. He spent fifteen years in the FBI…as a sniper on Hostage Rescue, an interrogation instructor and director of intelligence for the Critical Incident Response Group.

The plot centers upon telecom billionaire Jordan Mitchell, whose latest high-tech cell phone has a new encryption model so advanced it will take the NSA at least a year to map it.

Mitchell’s game plan to roll out the phones in the Mideast prompts many in the U.S. government to accuse him of putting profits ahead of patriotism. This phone will compromise the U.S. ability to gather intel on the terrorists.

There are three additional main players.

The HRT connection is Jeremy Waller, a rookie, always at the top of his class.

Senator Elizabeth Beecham who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee has Mitchell squarely in her sights.

The sexy Sirad Malneaux who works for Mitchell in his Atlanta office is a spy…who controls her, and is she perhaps a double or even a triple agent?

These four swirl in an intense eddy, eventually converging in this high stakes game.

To give away more plot points would sabotage your personal theories and predictions.

If you find yourself bewildered, perplexed or disoriented as the plot unfolds…at the resolution you will realize you were meant to feel that way.

So---read, hypothesize and enjoy a genuine electrifying ride.

Curmudgeon in the Wry #271

Thursday, August 12, 2004—508 words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 48 seconds
+++++++
Rave: Artie Shaw
+++++++
Rant: It’s the price of gas at the pump, stupid!
+++++++
Hmmmmm: Do home schoolers have to go somewhere else to do their homework?
+++++++
Quote: "The first twenty-five years of life contain the whole of experience…the rest is observation." ---Graham Greene.
+++++
Rant: Why does a ringing telephone always take precedence over a customer paying cash?
+++++++
Rave: Turner Classic Movies’ "Summer Under the Sun" with a different Hollywood star featured all day long.
The day devoted to Jean Harlow was a great treat. The featurette on Harlow’s life hosted by Sharon Stone was poignant and spectacular.
Jean Harlow could crack wise with the best of them.
"Dinner at Eight" remains my absolute favorite Harlow movie. The final scene with Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow is a faultless classic. Dressler’s double take when Harlow’s character says, "I was reading a book the other day" is unmatched on the screen.
+++++++
Rant: Why did the media decide to replace the perfectly good word "disappeared" with the phrase "went missing?"
+++++++
Political wisdom: Ben Affleck's judgment: The same guy who is telling us Kerry will be a good president also thought "Gigli" was a great script.
+++++++
Rave: If you enjoy the black helicopter, conspiracy theory, paranoid thrillers, then Christopher Whitcomb’s "Black" is right up your alley.
Mr. Whitcomb writes what he knows. He spent fifteen years in the FBI…as a sniper on Hostage Rescue, an interrogation instructor and director of intelligence for the Critical Incident Response Group.
The plot centers upon telecom billionaire Jordan Mitchell whose latest high-tech cell phone has a new encryption model so advanced it will take the NSA at least a year to map it.
Mitchell’s game plan to roll out the phones in the Mideast prompts many in the U.S. government to accuse him of putting profits ahead of patriotism. This phone will compromise the U.S. ability to gather intel on the terrorists.
There are three additional main players.
The HRT connection is Jeremy Waller, a rookie, always at the top of his class.
Senator Elizabeth Beecham who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee has Mitchell squarely in her sights.
The sexy Sirad Malneaux who works for Mitchell in his Atlanta office is a spy…who controls her, and is she perhaps a double or even a triple agent?
These four swirl in an intense eddy, eventually converging in this high stakes game.
To give away more plot points would sabotage your personal theories and predictions.
If you find yourself bewildered, perplexed or disoriented as the plot unfolds…at the resolution you will realize you were meant to feel that way.
So---read, hypothesize and enjoy a genuine electrifying ride.
+++++++
Rant: I have tried as hard as I can to like the John McEnroe Show on CNBC---but have been totally unsuccessful. That show has more problems than a new desk can correct.
+++++++
Born this day: George Hamilton, Pete Sampras, John Derek, Jane Wyatt, Cecil B. DeMille, Buck Owens, Mark Knopfler.
+++++++
That is all
As you were.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry #270

Friday, August 06, 2004—544 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 48 seconds
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Rave: The Falcon
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Hall of Fame Rave: Right turn on red.
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Rave: I am all for CAPPS II. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
+++++++
Rant: Michael Moore needs bodyguards? Who would have guessed?
+++++++
Recommendation: When you say, "to make a long story short," please do so
+++++++
Quote: ""The guy waving with the cell phone [at the ballpark] has become this year's John 3:16 guy with the rainbow hair," Bill Stetka, Orioles media relations.
+++++++
Rant: Terrorists are weapons of mass destruction.
+++++++
No such thing: Les fat, more flavor.
+++++++
Rave: Vince Flynn is as fine a thriller writer as there is today. His prescient "Memorial Day" is an incredibly detailed and persuasive novel on the CIA’s counter-terrorism war.
CIA counter-terrorism agent/assassin Mitch Rapp leads a highly successful lightning raid into Pakistan that uncovers an al Qaeda nuclear plot.
Using a combination of non-politically correct methods on the captured, Rapp extracts info stating that within seven days attacks will be launched against the president, his cabinet, armed forces leaders and foreign dignitaries.
Rapp is the CIA’s "Dirty Harry" with no time for due process. However he must overcome colliding egos, agendas, political philosophies in high places while leading the effort to thwart the attacks.
Vacillating politicos, obstructionist presidential sycophants and an ambitious liberal civil rights lawyer are just as bothersome to Rapp’s undertaking as are the al Qaeda.
Rapp is a fascinating character full of contradictions; capable of non-emotional violence and possessing admirable patriotism.
The plot packs a real kick, is full of surprises and populated with well-drawn characters.
Mr. Flynn distinguishes between the murderous terrorists and the peaceful, devout Muslims.
"Memorial Day" draws on today’s hot-button issues: citizen’s rights, captured prisoners’ treatment, government secrecy and homeland security…all in a believable manner.
Two guarantees: you will not be able to put this book down…and when you finish this cliffhanger, you will pray we have guys like Mitch Rapp on the front lines.
+++++++
Lest you forget: They do not know what they would do without you, but they will think of something if they have to.
+++++++
Movie wisdom: "You get what you settle for." ---Thelma and Louise
+++++++
Sound advice: Never leave your keys in the pocket of a checked coat.
+++++++
Truism: No meeting is effective that lasts beyond one hour---unless it is a training session.
+++++++
Truism II: The store brand sucks.
+++++++
Hmmmm: The impossible often isn’t.
+++++++
Rant: I am really worn out by people answering a question with, "That is good question."
+++++++
Just wondering: How can you tell if a cartoon family’s picture is a photo or a portrait?
+++++++
Oh so true: The photos in recruiting brochures never reflect real life on the job.
+++++++
No excuses: Never leave misspellings in any document that leaves your office…including e-mail. With spell-check there is no justification for any word to be misspelled.
+++++++
Self-evident truth: Clothes do not make you look fat. Fat makes you look fat.
+++++++
Quote: "Good people are not hard to find; they are hard to keep." ---George Perkins
+++++++
Born this day: Laverne Andrews, Pat Paulsen, George W. Bush, Dalai Lama, Ned Beatty, Burt Ward, Della Reese, Janet Leigh, Nancy Reagan, Bill Haley.
+++++++
That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

"The Madman's Tale" by John Katzenbach Review

John Katzenbach has assembled an authentic "Cuckoo’s Nest" of characters inside Western State Mental Hospital in his chilling thriller, "The Madman’s Tale."

Narrator (C-Bird), both witness and schizophrenic whose hold on mental normalcy and self-preservation is tenuous, revisits the nightmare that took place twenty years ago. His narrative rotates between present day in first person and his third person memories.

In 1979 a rape/murder inside the asylum brings in prosecuting attorney Lucy Jones (who has three unsolveds with similar profiles) to investigate. Lucy herself is a victim of a similar malicious crime.

Her initial act is unorthodox; enlisting two inmates (C-Bird and Peter the Fireman) to aid her as "they are the only ones I am certain are not guilty." Creating additional tension is a minimally cooperative and reluctant hospital management.

Uncovering the killer hiding inside the institution is a most intriguing premise. There are no rules for pursuing a murderer in a mental institution where "the mad know the truth and the sane cannot comprehend it."

The serial killer circles around them, committing two additional murders during the investigation.

Mr. Katzenbach creates an uneasy atmosphere filled with evil, darkness and an engrossing sense of foreboding.

The unfortunate, unlikely heroes are sympathetic characters that you worry and care about. You cannot anticipate what will happen next.

This tale will linger in your mind long after the final page. It commands your attention and has a terrific conclusion.

Curmudgeon in the Wry # 269

Sunday, August 01, 2004—564 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 48 seconds
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Rave: Sugarland
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Hmmmm: When a funeral director has a body in his hearse, does he qualify to use the HOV lane?
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Rave: "De-Lovely" is just as entertaining the second time around. Hard for me to believe the two hours it runs actually take 120 minutes.
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Rant: When did "shove it" become a vulgarity? Did I miss the memo?
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Rave: More candidates, spouses and people in general need to tell rude reporters to shove it.
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Rant: Hollywood is filming a remake of "The Longest Yard," starring (get this) Adam Sandler. Does not sound like "The Longest Yard" I remember.
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Quote: "I see more McCarthy than Murrow in the work of Michael Moore. No matter how hot a blowtorch burns, it doesn't shed much light." ---Scott Simon, NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday".
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Rave: John Katzenbach has assembled an authentic "Cuckoo’s Nest" of characters inside Western State mental Hospital in his chilling thriller, "The Madman’s Tale."
Narrator (C-Bird), both witness and schizophrenic whose hold on mental normalcy and self-preservation is tenuous, revisits the nightmare that took place twenty years ago. His narrative rotates between present day in first person and his third person memories.
In 1979 a rape/murder inside the asylum brings in prosecuting attorney Lucy Jones (who has three unsolveds with similar profiles) to investigate. Lucy herself is a victim of a similar malicious crime.
Her initial act is unorthodox; enlisting two inmates (C-Bird and Peter the Fireman) to aid her as "they are the only ones I am certain are not guilty." Creating additional tension is a minimally cooperative and reluctant hospital management.
Uncovering the killer hiding inside the institution is a most intriguing premise. There are no rules for pursuing a murderer in a mental institution where "the mad know the truth and the sane cannot comprehend it."
The serial killer circles around them, committing two additional murders during the investigation.
Mr. Katzenbach creates an uneasy atmosphere filled with evil, darkness and an engrossing sense of foreboding.
The unfortunate, unlikely heroes are sympathetic characters that you worry and care about. You cannot anticipate what will happen next.
This tale will linger in your mind long after the final page. It commands your attention and has a terrific conclusion.
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‘Tis true: If you do not think God has a sense of humor, stand near the checkout line at Wal-Mart for an hour.
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Hmmmm: So the Miss America Pageant is doing away with the talent competition. This could spell the end to baton twirling, as we now know it.
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Truism: They may not be making any more land, but they sure are making a lot more condos.
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Rant: What is with all the cars and "vehicles" with the school bus yellow paint jobs? Why would someone purposely want his or her car to look like a New York taxi?
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Democratic philosophy: John McCain is a noble independent thinker for refusing to toe his party's line, but Zell Miller is a traitor for refusing to toe his.
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Just asking: Would a newly elected President Kerry pardon Sandy Berger for stealing classified documents from the National Archives?
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Rant: If morning drive traffic frustrates you and you are late for work every day, try leaving 15 minutes earlier.
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Born this day: Jerry Garcia, Yves Saint Laurent, Herman Melville, Francis Scott Key.
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That is all.
As you were.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Laura Lippman Interview

Diane Rehm did a terrific interview with Laura Lippman on NPR today (July 27th, 2004).
A good discussion on the latest book, "By A Spider's Thread" and on the growth of Laura's protagonist, Baltimore PI. Tess Monaghan.
It is archived on WAMU's web site.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry #268

Saturday, July 24, 2004—587 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 57 seconds
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Rave: Myrna Loy
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Factoid: It is almost impossible to spend two hours with Cole Porter and leave the theater without a great big smile.
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Rant: Explaining why he would have welcomed Mike Krzyzewski as Lakers coach, Kobe Bryant said, "If I had went to college, I would have went to Duke." And flunked English, by the sounds of it.
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Rave: RKO Radio Pictures.
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Rave: Melanie Griffith’s tribute to Jean Harlow on Turner Classic Movies is quite moving. It is hard to imagine that Jean Harlow died so young (at 26). She sure turned things around in Hollywood.
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Rant: Are there any children in the world more screwed up than the children of psychiatrists?
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Strange but true: Nobody has ever seen Ralph Nader smile.
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Hmmm: When is the last time you asked someone for his fax number?
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Truism: Some hotel chains have figured out that guests want good beds. And some have even figured out they like nice bathrooms. So when are the hotels going to figure out that guests would like a little soundproofing?
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Let us remember: At the age of 81 (six days after his final gig), legendary tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet died of a heart attack.
His career spanned seven decades and he received an honorary doctorate of musical arts from Julliard on May 21st of this year.
He played with and influenced everyone from Nat Cole to Louis Armstrong; Charlie Parker to Miles Davis; Count Basie to Cab Calloway; Ella to Dizzy.
His eighty-second solo on "Flying Home" with the Lionel Hampton Band is his most famous legacy. "Black Velvet" is my particular favorite.
He appeared in "Stormy Weather" with Lena Horne.
He was spectacular.
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Rant: I am certain it is irrational, but five-digit street addresses really bother me.
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Rave: "Double Play" by Robert B. Parker defies classification.
It centers on the 1947 baseball season when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier…so there is baseball.
The Dodgers feel Robinson requires a bodyguard and pick Joseph Burke. Burke is a physically and emotionally wounded Guadalcanal Marine sharp shooter. He has no feelings and nothing to lose, follows orders and shoots straight…in other words, the perfect choice to protect Robinson.
The plot to kill Robinson originates with a New York mob boss. Burke’s astute manipulations of the mob and the Harlem gangsters combine to save the day. So there is mystery and gunplay.
Mr. Parker alternates the death threat story with recollections of his own childhood as a fan of the Dodgers.
Nostalgic period detail paints the scene with atmospheric touches like vintage songs, network radio shows, Red Barber calling the games and 1947 box scores.
But it is the relationship between Robinson and Burke that carries the story in this lean, taut, intricate, poignant novel. While it is Burke who thwarts the assassination of Jackie Robinson, it is Robinson who truly saves Burke.
In the Parker tradition, Burke is "someone who plays the game, protecting those who follow the rules and punishing those who don’t. We call him a hero."
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Hmmmm: Would it not be cool if someone had a garage sale and actually sold his garage?
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Just asking: Have you actually seen a rug shop go out of business?
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Truism: People who sleep on foam pillows rather than down pillows do not know what they are missing.
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Born this day: Zelda Fitzgerald, Bob Eberly, X. Brands, Doug Sanders, John D. MacDonald, Amelia Earhart, Alexandre Dumas.
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That is all.
As you were.

Review: "Double Play" by Robert B. Parker

"Double Play" by Robert Parker defies classification.

It centers on the 1947 baseball season when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier…so there is baseball.

The Dodgers feel Robinson requires a bodyguard and pick Joseph Burke. Burke is a physically and emotionally wounded Guadalcanal Marine sharp shooter. He has no feeling and nothing to lose, follows orders and shoots straight…in other words, the perfect choice to protect Robinson.

The plot to kill Robinson originates with a New York mob boss. Burke’s astute manipulations of the mob and the Harlem gangsters combine to save the day. So there is mystery and gunplay.

Mr. Parker alternates the death threat story with recollections of his own childhood as a fan of the Dodgers.

Nostalgic period detail paints the scene with atmospheric touches like vintage songs, network radio shows, Red Barber calling the games and 1947 box scores.

But it is the relationship between Robinson and Burke that carries the story in this lean, taut, intricate, poignant novel. While it is Burke who thwarts the assassination of Jackie Robinson, it is Robinson who truly saves Burke.

In the Parker tradition, Burke is "someone who plays the game, protecting those who follow the rules and punishing those who don’t. We call him a hero."


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Review: "De-Lovely"

"De-Lovely" is exquisite…just a superb experience.
Both Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd inhabit their roles and become Cole and Linda Porter. It is impossible to take your eyes off them.
The parts seem tailor made for them. They combine infectious joy, gracefulness, charm and sophistication…and pull off the emotional ingredients essential to tell the bittersweet love story. They are there for one another in the hard times as well as the good times.
The supporting cast is equally potent and the motion picture is elegantly filmed.
The 1930’s come to life in the music, costumes and automobiles.
A galaxy of today’s pop stars brings several of Cole Porter’s standards delightfully to life.
And, what great music! Cole Porter is arguably one of the three or four greatest US songwriters. How many writing today will be remembered in eighty years?
Peaks and valleys filled Cole Porter’s career and personal life. This extraordinary, rich, enchanting film will take your emotions on that same roller coaster.
It would not surprise me in the least to see Oscar nominations for Costume Design, Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd...as well Song (any number of candidates there.)




Curmudgeon in the Wry #267

Friday, July 23, 2004—522 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 51 seconds
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Rave: Lana Turner
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Rave: "De-Lovely" is exquisite…just a superb experience.
Both Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd inhabit their roles and become Cole and Linda Porter. It is impossible to take your eyes off them.
The parts seem tailor made for them. They combine infectious joy, gracefulness, charm and sophistication…and pull off the emotional ingredients essential to tell the bittersweet love story. They are there for one another in the hard times as well as the good times.
The supporting cast is equally potent and the motion picture is elegantly filmed.
The 1930’s come to life in the music, costumes and automobiles.
A galaxy of today’s pop stars brings several of Cole Porter’s standards delightfully to life.
And, what great music! Cole Porter is arguably one of the three or four greatest US songwriters. How many writing today will be remembered in eighty years?
Peaks and valleys filled Cole Porter’s career and personal life. This extraordinary, rich, enchanting film will take your emotions on that same roller coaster.
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Rave: On ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, I prefer the "web gems" to the "touch ‘em all" segment.
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Rave: The Elton John guest appearance on the John McEnroe Show was worthy of the instant repeat. Overall the show needs a lot of tweaking…and John has to get a clue on how awful his shirts are.
CNBC has done a great job refining the Dennis Miller Show. It has become one of the fastest going sixty minutes on the tube.
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Rave: If he were alive today, Randolph Scott would be making a fortune doing voice-overs.
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Quote: "But after seeing about a thousand rock concerts, my feeling is that rock stars who discuss politics from the stage deserve whatever criticism they get -- not for speaking their minds, but for assuming they might have something to say that we need to hear from them. I figure if you're a pop musician and you feel the need to express your politics, go try to write the next ‘Blowin' in the Wind.’" ---Jim Fusilli in the Wall Street Journal
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Hmmm: What’s with the back of the nickel? It looks like two guys shaking hands over a pair of golf clubs. What is it supposed to be…a tribute to Ben Hogan?
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Admit it: Most new, fake diners are nicer than the old, real diners ever were.
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Rant: I remain unconvinced that birds actually like birdbaths.
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Rave: For the past couple of weeks the Danish Paralympic Swim Team has been training at the Aquatic Center I belong to.
This is as courageous a group of young people as I have ever seen.
A few have only one fully functioning limb, yet are never without a smile. All are powerful swimmers…a couple you could ski behind.
They are inspirational and give me a perpetual "there but for the grace of God go I" feeling.
It is humbling, uplifting and a privilege to share the pool with them.
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Born this day: Raymond Chandler, PeeWee Reese, Don Drysdale, Don Imus, Monica Lewinsky, Gloria DeHaven.
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That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry # 266

Monday, July 19, 2004—560 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 48 seconds
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Rave: Kirk Douglas
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Rant: Is it just me or is the Braves TV schedule being managed under the Witness Protection Program?
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Quote: "God helps those who get in on the ground floor." ---Anon.
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Y Not: Bill Cosby should be appointed secretary of education. You may not like his message, but who will be able to argue with him?
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Hmmm: Aren’t you glad that football and baseball did not go metric?
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Rave: The 91 movies run this past week in the Turner Classic Movies "Crime Wave." Many great film noir classics.
Every time I see "The Asphalt Jungle," the better it gets. Same with "The Postman Always Rings Twice"---James Cain was an incredible writer…and it did not hurt that Lana Turner and John Garfield were spontaneous combustion on the screen.
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Rave: I have convinced myself that M&M Almonds contain all sever major food groups.
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Rant: People who crack their gum should not be allowed out in public.
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Rave: Neighbors never just drop by on one another any more…thank goodness.
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Rant: On Sunday’s "Face the Nation," Ed Gillespie, Chairman, Republican National Committee brought up the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee’s report where Kerry advisor Joe Wilson was unanimously discredited.
The Committee found that Wilson fabricated stories and talked about viewing documents he never saw. Wilson himself said he "used a little literary flair."
No comment necessary.
The most interesting part came after moderator Bob Schieffer asked Terry McAuliffe, Chairman, Democratic National Committee if he wanted to reply.
McAuliffe said, "I’ll let Joe Wilson speak for himself."
Good to know that the Democratic National Committee Chairman is with his fellow dems win or tie.
Say what you may about George W. Bush…but he knows the meaning of loyalty.
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Truism: There is nothing more complicated than a hotel alarm clock.
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Rave: Laura Lippman’s eighth Tess Monaghan novel, "By A Spider’s Thread" is a provocative, savvy, challenging thriller.
Precise plotting, an economical cast of realistic characters (some appealing, some detestable) and a plausible resolution make the pages disappear in a trice.
Mark Rubin, a wealthy Jewish furrier whose wife (Natalie) and three children have vanished, hires Tess to locate them.
Mark and Tess get off to a rocky beginning as Mark withholds information about his family and omits details about contacts that could illuminate Tess’s search.
Tess is resourceful and they gradually warm to one another. As Tess learns more about Mark’s family, marriage and religious identity, the reasons for Natalie’s disappearance start to materialize.
Family secrets underlie the plot and provide the motive for the mastermind behind the disappearance.
The story is told from multiple points of view…that of Tess and the parallel view from the observant and bright eldest child. This works and leaves enough blanks to fill in to keep you guessing and on your toes.
Laura Lippman is masterful at filling in the pertinent background with the backwards and forwards story telling. Equally important is the way she builds the tension, suspense and impact with character development rather than gratuitous violence.
The multilayered, absorbing narrative has enormous momentum and clever details.
Easily the best in the Tess Monaghan series and a powerful follow-up to last year’s spectacular "Every Secret Thing."
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Born this day: Max_Fleischer, Vikki Carr, George McGovern, Lizzie Borden, Edgar Degas, Pat Hingle.
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That is all.
As you were.