Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 363

Tuesday, September 25, 2007---672 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 17 seconds (time frittered away) (a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: Lyle Lovett
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On the Victrola: Benny Carter’s “All of Me”---features four cuts from the “M Squad” soundtrack, including three composed by Mr. Carter.
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Reading: “Playing for Pizza” by John Grisham.
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Rave: Finally discovered John Dunning with his initial Cliff Janeway novel, “Booked to Die.” It was written in 1992, and the plot, characters and pacing are all spot on…the lack of cell phones is about the only thing that dates it.
Janeway is an ex-cop, now a bookseller.
What may seem an unexciting premise for a whodunit is quite the opposite…with one of the finest surprise endings I have encountered.
Then I rediscovered Lawrence Block. His Edgar winning “A Dance at the Slaughterhouse” is superlative. (Also written in 1992)
Scudder, also an ex-cop, works as an unlicensed PI in NYC. He and his cop contact know who the guilty parties are in a pair of intertwining cases…but cannot get the necessary evidence to get the DA to prosecute.
Matt has no compunction about coloring outside the lines. His searches, inquiries and analysis take him to many of NYC’s seedier parts.
Realistic deductions that keep you entertained all the way. You know who is guilty, but the ride to find out how to get justice is wonderful
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Rant: More pathetic than O.J. Simpson is cable's saturated coverage of his latest legal troubles.
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Didjaknow: “Anatomy of a Murder” was nominated for seven Oscars in 1959, including two in the Best Supporting Actor category (George C. Scott and Arthur O’Connell). It won none.
Of course, 1959 was a remarkable year for films including “Some Like It Hot,” “North by Northwest,” “Diary of Anne Frank,” “Room at the Top,” “Compulsion,” “Rio Bravo” and “Pillow Talk.”
“Ben-Hur” was Best Picture and Charlton Heston was Best Actor---and there was nary a big bang explosion every ten minutes.
Sure was a better output from Hollywood than we get today!
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Quote: “Coincidence is God trying to maintain His anonymity.”---Matt Scudder in “Dance at the Slaughterhouse.”
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Factoid: According to Mark Pennin in his book, “Microtrends”: Kids born to women over 40 are 128% more likely to be lefties than those born to women in their 20’s.
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Hmmm: The PGA will soon start testing golfers for performance-enhancing drugs. Everyone but John Daly, who will be tested for donuts.
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Rave: Roberta Flack is the only female vocalist with a #1 hit on the pop charts over three consecutive years…”Killing Me Softly,” “Feel Like Making Love” and “The First Time.”
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Remember when: The Celtics were the best team in basketball…no one had ever heard of pitch counts…very few kids played one sport year round…nobody had ever heard of performance-enhancing drugs or a luxury box…there was no sports talk radio…no one had a clue what on-base percentage was…tennis players used wooden rackets…tennis players wore white…kids played pickup games in neighborhoods…there were zero TV sideline reporters…there were no hockey teams in the south…there were Sunday doubleheaders in baseball…the World Series was played in the afternoon, and everyone ran home from school to catch the final innings…there was no union in baseball…MLB had just 16 teams…baseball gloves were not big enough to catch basketballs…pitchers got only three days of rest (and completed their games)?
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Didjaknow: Catfish Hunter was the last pitcher to win 20 games five years in a row (1971-1975). You will not see that again.
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Hmmm: How glad are the Seattle SuperSonics that they drafted Kevin Durant?
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Who Knew: Alan Greenspan says that he wooed his wife with an essay on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Now, that is what I call kinky.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.












Saturday, September 22, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 362

Saturday, September 22, 2007---6:13 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 7 seconds (time frittered away) (a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: Duke volleyball!
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On the Victrola: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band---“It’s Not Big It’s Large.”
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Reading: “Booked to Die”---John Dunning.
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Rave: “Burn Notice” is the “Rockford Files” of today…outstanding combination of action and humor.
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TV Time Out: It was great to see “Broken Trail” and The PBS Tony Bennett Special win some of the Emmy Awards.
Of all the winners, those were the only shows that I saw during the year.
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Must See TV: “The War” from ken Burns starts tomorrow night…not to be missed.
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Rant: In the September issue of Forbes Life, I learn that the knit tie is back in fashion after 25 years. I must have missed that memo in 1982.
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Memo to O.J.: “Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is just an advertising slogan, big guy.
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Didjaknow: Jules Verne was a stockbroker before he became a best selling author. His initial book was published in 1863. “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Around the World in Eighty Days” have never been out of print.
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Hmmm: Where does bin Laden find Just for Men?
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Good advice: Never try to outwit your cat!
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Rave: Every detail counts in Stephen Hunter’s magnificent “The 47th Samurai.”
It is a taut thriller with punch featuring Vietnam War Marine Master Sniper, Bob Lee Swagger, a man of muscular elegance.
This unique protagonist has finally found some peace with his family in Crazy Horse, Idaho.
This all changes when Philip Yano tracks him down and the past and present collide. Bob and Philip’s fathers fought one another on Iwo Jima sixty year before. Earl Swagger survived, and acquired Yano’s battle sword.
The two former military men bond and Bob pledges to track down the sword.
When Bob presents the sword to Philip, they learn it is not typical WWII issue. It is, in fact, a celebrated shin-shinto katana altered for WWII use. It is a priceless Japanese relic, an object d’art…worth killing for.
Philip and his family are murdered for it…only the youngest daughter survives. She is placed in an orphanage.
Bob vows to unearth the killers, no matter the cost…a quest of revenge and retribution.
His adversaries are ruthless…members of Japan’s Yukaza, 8-9-3 Gang---up to the higher levels of the government.
Bob does pick up two superb allies in Japan… a drug-taking editor of an indie newspaper who senses a huge scoop and a covert CIA agent whose reluctance is gradually overcome.
The superior plotting, solid story telling and fascinating character studies will leave you sleep deprived.
Mr. Hunter is a master at choreographing violence with skill and grace.
It is an addictive read with a most powerful conclusion…one of the finest novels of the year.
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Rimshot: If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?
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Truism: A flashlight is a container for dead batteries.
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Rant: Public conversations have gotten louder since cell phones were created.
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Crunching the numbers: If you had any faith in football polls to begin with, Michigan ranked as #5 to start the season ought to dissuade you of that belief.
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Rant: Just because the mortgage lenders give you a mortgage does not mean you have to take it. You know if you can afford something or not.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.





Saturday, September 15, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 361

Saturday, September 15, 2007---674 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 21 seconds (time frittered away) (a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: Pied Pipers
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On the Victrola: “Martinis with Mancini”
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Reading: “The 47th Samurai” by Stephen Hunter
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Rave: What were the odds back in 1957 when Paul Anka hit the charts with “Diana” that he would still be performing today?
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Quote: “If there wasn’t cheating in sports there wouldn’t be referees.”---Bill Reynolds, Providence Journal.
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Quote II: “We do not ask our professional coaches to be role models. We do not ask them to be virtuous. We don’t ask them to do the right thing. We ask them to win games. Nothing else. To believe anything else is to believe in fairy tales.”--- Bill Reynolds, Providence Journal.
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Rant: Long pointy shoes as a fashion statement elude me. Then again, most fashion statements elude me.
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Quote: “It isn't fun to be forced to have fun.”---Matt Labash in The Weekly Standard.
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Rant: Remember when people used to close themselves up in a tiny little booth to make a private call in public? What happened?
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Hmmmm: How come Tarzan never has a beard?
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For what it’s worth: David Beckham is the Y2K of American sport. Truly much ado about nothing.
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Rant: Yes, Hollywood had a $4 billion summer, and what makes me feel better is that I did not spend one thin dime to see the junk that came out.
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Rave: The special on Tony Bennett that PBS ran in their American Masters series on 9/12 was extremely well done, most entertaining, a complete joy. Produced by Clint Eastwood.
Locally, in the shadow of Cameron Indoor Stadium, the PBS station ran a feature on the recording of The Tony Bennett Duets album. Enormously engrossing and I thought Diana Krall was the highlight, followed by Michael Buble and The Dixie Chicks.
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Didjaknow: Tony Bennett was one of the guests on the inaugural Johnny Carson Show in 1962. Also on the bill were Joan Crawford, Groucho Marx, Mel Brooks and Rudy Vallee.
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Rant: At the rate they are recalling toys from China, parents will have to give their kids books this Christmas.
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My two cents: The western is arguably the most American of genres. Therefore, I find it most ironic that the two leading actors in the remake of “3:10 to Yuma” are a Brit and an Aussie.
Christian Bale and Russell Crowe both turned in decent performances---but I thought Ben Foster as Charlie Prince, Peter Fonda as a grizzled bounty hunter and Logan Lerman as 14-year-old Will Evans stole the show.
In fact, the movie would have been better served had Fonda played either Ben Wade or Dan Evans.
It is more agreeable if one views it as a stand alone western and not a remake.
The original spent the majority of the film with farmer Dan Evans guarding outlaw Ben Wade in the hotel room in Contention waiting for the train.
The current flick chronicles the time from the final Wade gang robbery to his capture and the trip to Contention…almost a prequel.
On the journey Evans and crew, face efforts at escape, an Apache raid and a rogue posse.
There is much action; most of it superfluous …but that is today’s Hollywood pandering to the “at least one big bang every ten minutes” hypothesis.
The film is much longer and far less suspenseful than the original.
The finale requires a copious amount of suspension of disbelief.
Overall, it is okay entertainment, not great. Worth the matinee price.
I give it 3 curmudgeons (out of five).
“Open Range” (2003) and “Broken Trail” (2006) are both superior to “Yuma.”
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Must see TV: Only one more new episode of “Burn Notice”---this coming Thursday the 20th on the USA Network at 10PM.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 360

Tuesday, September 11, 2007---573 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 47 seconds (time frittered away) (a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: Santo and Johnny
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On the Victrola: RCA Victor Jazz/The First Half Century: The Twenties Through the Sixties.
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Reading: “Out of Sight” by Elmore Leonard (1996)---rereading actually. It is the book that introduces Karen Sisco, and was a wonderful TV show that was cancelled way too soon.
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Rave: So glad to see that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is competing in the next "Dancing with the Stars." It might help him overcome his shyness.
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Rant: In a world that made more sense, the first college football rankings would not be released until the first week of October
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Didjaknow: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers first danced together on screen doing “The Carioca” in 1933’s “Flying Down to Rio.”
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Hmmmm: I noticed that Alberto Gonzales timed his resignation to coincide with Jon Stewert’s vacation.
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Rave: Britney Spears still look better than 99% of the women in America.
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Rant: If the feds are going to bail out people who can’t afford to pay their mortgages, would someone please notify me ahead of time so I can go buy a house I can’t afford?
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Hmmmm: What is so practical about a practical joke?
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Rant: Remember when tennis players all wore white? Now they wear anything but. In fact, half the men at the US Open looked like they were auditioning for the Village People.
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Rant & Rave: I really enjoyed the US Open tennis I saw on USA Network and CBS. There are a number of exciting players in both the men’s and women’s divisions. I love John McEnroe’s commentary and his American Express ad was a treat.
Great to see Venus and Serena more or less healthy and playing the majors this season. They have the best pair of smiles in sports.
However, Serena’s “she made a lot of lucky shots” sour comment after losing to Justine Henin in the quarterfinals was rather boorish and classless---and has no basis in fact.
No one wins seven majors with lucky shots. Justine is a remarkable athlete who was overwhelming in the Open.
My question is where does someone 5’6” get that much power? She is a great champion.
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More US Open: Watching on TV it is not difficult to determine the advertiser’s target audience. Almost every commercial was for something I could not afford.
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Hmmm: Is it true that if J.D. Drew does not start hitting, the Red Sox are going to put him on the “3:10 to Yuma?” At the moment, he is hitting more like Nancy Drew.
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Follow the money: You want to sit behind home plate for the MLB post season? $350 a shot for the first round, $400 for the ALCS and $450 will get you a ducat for the World Series.
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Hmmm: Why do more people find Jesus more often in the courtroom and prison than in church?
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Rant: People who feel they must carry on a cell phone conversation in their car should be mandated by law to drive in the right-hand lane. Then the rest of us with a brain can go around them.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.












Sunday, September 02, 2007

Flying, Huck, Ben and Anka BIZ

The last time I flew was 1999, so I can honestly say that I have not flown in this century.
Don't miss it one bit. It was the worst part of promotion. Flying was no fun then...I can only imagine how unpleasant it is today.

Huck's line was a good one. However, I agree with Ben Stein. It sure sounds like entrapment to me.
I know zero about Craig...but am not a fan of entrapment.

I was unaware that Paul Anka wrote the music for "The Longest Day" or the Carson Show.
In 1978 or 1979 I had dinner with him and a PD from Tampa. The PD brought his wife and I brought my girl friend. Paul Anka charmed them beyond words.
"Diana" is still my favorite Anka song.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 359

Saturday, September 01, 2007---744 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 27 seconds (time frittered away) (a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: Roy Barcroft
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On the Victrola: “The Measure of Monk” by Thelonious Monk (Yet another Starbucks collection).
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Reading: James Crumley’s “Bordersnakes.”
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Rave: “Leave It to Beaver” is celebrating its 50th anniversary. You can vote for your favorite episode at tvland.com.
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Rant: The power of the media lies in its inherent ability to make us obsess over stories we would have otherwise ignored.
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TV Time Out: Overall, I give “The Bronx is Burning” a mid to low “B.” On the whole, it lacked the high heat.
I thought the early episodes (before Son of Sam was caught) were stronger---mainly as the cops were magnificent and there less Mickey Rivers in the last three installments.
Erik Jensen, who played Thurman Munson was outstanding---as was John Turturro as Billy Martin.
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Hmmm: Guess which will get you a fine: watering your lawn or paying an illegal alien to mow it?
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Innocent: August 29th marked the 40th anniversary of the final episode of “The Fugitive” starring David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble.
When it originally aired, it was the highest rated show in TV history with 45.9% of US households tuned in. It is the only TV show aired prior to 1970 still in the Top 20.
David Janssen was one of those rare actors who had three hit television shows. Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957-1960) and Harry-O in the mid-1970’s(very under-appreciated) were the other two.
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Rave: No publication does a more entertaining job with abbreviations, nicknames and acronyms than Daily Variety. My current fave is “spesh” for special.
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Rant: One in five Americans cannot find the U.S. on a map, but 20 million Mexicans can.
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TV Timeout II: If you get RFD-TV, you can catch “The Imus Ranch Special” on Labor Day.
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Lou Boldt and John LaMoia of the Crimes Against Person squad of the Seattle PD are the leads in Ridley Peason’s “The First Victim.”
A container filled will illegal Chinese aliens goes overboard in Puget Sound, resulting in three deaths. The illegals are headed for either sweatshops or prostitution.
A Chinese/American TV investigative reporter goes undercover to locate the sweatshop. When she is captured, the station’s anchor (Stevie McNeal, the reporter’s sister by adoption), takes a personal interest.
She arouses the ire of the criminals and interferes with the police work. When things get very sticky, she joins the SPD effort.
The Chinese Triad, slimy INS agents, ships, containers, rendezvous, fake ID's, graveyards, brothels and sweatshops, the media, agency turf wars, SPD politics and an information leak all conspire in the SPD’s mission to out think the villains.
The characters, both good guys and bad guys are credible throughout, the pace is resolute and determined (mirroring the police procedures), local color drops you into the Puget Sound area and the dialogue is realistic.
Good plot, sturdy story telling and absorbing character studies.
Maybe a little too much time spent on Boldt and McNeal’s introspections on their family lives that fail to advance the plot---but that is a small objection.
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Ratings game: MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” is a distant third in its time slot in the cable news game. Fox News Channel’s “Big Story with John Gibson” leads the way.
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Factoid: Before Trigger and Roy Rogers hooked up in 1938, Trigger was ridden by Maid Marian (Oliva de Havilland) in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
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Rant: We don’t need to teach Spanish in pre-schools. What we need to do is stop coddling those immigrants who don’t take the time and effort to learn English
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Didjaknow: Puget Sound is North America’s largest estuary, has unusual and unpredictable tides and currents, and produces some of the fastest surface currents in the western United States.
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Quote: “Friends don’t let friends become US Attorney General, ineptly.”---Dennis Miller.
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Rant: Okay…I am driving along and I see a dozen city workers standing around a new section of sidewalk watching the concrete dry. And, we wonder why we cannot get decent raises for cops, firefighters and teachers.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

Ridley Pearson's "The First Victim"

Lou Boldt and John LaMoia of the Crimes Against Person squad of the Seattle PD are the leads in Ridley Peason’s “The First Victim.”

A container filled will illegal Chinese aliens goes overboard in Puget Sound, resulting in three deaths. The illegals are headed for either sweatshops or prostitution.

A Chinese/American TV investigative reporter goes undercover to locate the sweatshop. When she is captured, the station’s anchor (Stevie McNeal, the reporter’s sister by adoption), takes a personal interest.

She arouses the ire of the criminals and interferes with the police work. When things get very sticky, she joins the SPD effort.

The Chinese Triad, slimy INS agents, ships, containers, rendezvous, fake ID's, graveyards, brothels and sweatshops, the media, agency turf wars, SPD politics and an information leak all conspire in the SPD’s mission to out think the villains.

The characters, both good guys and bad guys are credible throughout, the pace is resolute and determined (mirroring the police procedures), local color drops you into the Puget Sound area and the dialogue is realistic.

Good plot, sturdy story telling and absorbing character studies.

Maybe a little too much time spent on Boldt and McNeal’s introspections on their family lives that fail to advance the plot---but that is a small objection.