Monthly Archives: July 2012

Retro Review: Star Trek — The Corbomite Maneuver

Between the return of Breaking Bad, the end of Eureka and spending far too much time looking at the newly released Next Generation Blu-Rays and going, “Ooohhhh…pretty!” I haven’t devoted a lot of time to my journey back through classic Star Trek of late.  But I’ve jumped back on board the starship Enterprise for the first episode produced after NBC picked up Star Trek.  

It’s the fantastic bottle episode, “The Corbomite Manuever.”  I’ll delve deeper into this classic episode of the original series just as soon as I figure out a way to have my adrenal gland removed…

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Season Tickets?

I generally don’t post my sports-related rantings here, but something happened to me yesterday that was far too amusing not to share.   In case you don’t know, I am a huge University of Tennessee Volunteers fan.   Many would say I see the world through orange tinted glasses–and they’d be correct.

Knowing that, makes this story all the more amusing….

Rick and Bubba are fond of saying they don’t consider themselves comedians, but they just report on the funny things that happen to them.  Consider this me reporting on something funny that happened to me yesterday.

I got a call from the Vanderbilt University athletics department.   My first thought was–oh no, they’ve read all the disparaging Commodore remarks I’ve made over the years and have finally called to tell me enough is enough.

Nope.

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Review: Beat the Band by Don Calame

Beat the Band

After achieving their goal of seeing a real, live woman au natural in the summer between their freshman and sophomore years, Matt, Sean and Coop are back with a new goal–to see if they can make it to the elusive third base. Told from Coop’s point of view, Beat the Band is a follow-up to one of my favorite books in recent memory Swim the Fly.

But maybe Fly set my expectations bar way too high because while I liked Beat the Band, I didn’t love it. Part of that could be that Coop is a bit rougher around the edges than Matt was. As they begin their sophomore year, Coop is obsessed with the one thing that pre-occupies all teenage boys–and no, I don’t mean video games. Coop believes he’s just one step away from being a sex symbol and having the lovely ladies swoon for him, but only if he can do something truly epic, memorable and monumental. When a battle of the bands is announced, Coop talks Sean and Matt into entering with him. If they win, Coop believes they will be rock gods and won’t be able to fend the ladies off with a stick.

There’s just a couple of flies in the ointment. First is that the group isn’t really a band. In his desperation to enter the battle, Coop and his father “borrow” a couple of songs from an obscure band on MySpace. Second is his out of work father’s constant interference in the band’s sound, look and direction. Seems that dad is trying to relive his glory days through the band…oh and he’s avoiding doing silly little grown-up things like looking for a job or sending out resumes. Continue reading

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Booking Through Thursday — Seasons

btt button
A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Two questions about your reading habits that just seem to go together.

GigiAnn asks:

Do you have a favorite season of the year that you read more? (Example: during snow storms, rainy weather, or sunny and warm weather) Sorry, that was the best I could come up with.

Lisa asks:

Where is your favorite place to read? On the beach? Inside/outside?

While I’m not necessarily a “seasonal” reader, I do admit that my reading time dips a bit when college and pro football seasons are upon us.   I spend a lot of time watching games during the fall, leading to my free time for reading dropping off a bit.  Thankfully, there are audio books that I can listen to while commuting, working out and doing other non-football related activities during this time.

I don’t necessarily have a favorite season for reading.  There are certain things I like about each season and reading.  I love sitting by the pool, after swimming laps with a good book and a big bottle of water on a warm summer afternoon.  I love curling up under a blanket in my easy chair with a cup of warm tea or hot chocolate on a winter afternoon.   I love it when spring hits for the first time and I head out to a park or the patio with a book just to feel the warm sun again and a nice breeze.   (This can also be done in the fall, provided there is no football game I’m interested in on television.  And by interested, I mean one in which there is a football being passed or run).

 

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TV Review: Breaking Bad Madrigal

The second of our eight Breaking Bad installments for the summer focuses a bit more on Mike and his role going forward with the new crime organization Walt wants to create.   Just how that will unfold remains to be seen, but I’m slowly beginning to think that it will be Walt’s own ego and arrogance that brings him down.

I’ll get into greater detail on “Madrigal” but only after we find a new way to use a portable defibrillator…

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Review: I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President

Twelve-year-old Oliver Wilson isn’t the most popular kid in school, but he is the most powerful. Turns out that while he pretends to have the IQ of a grilled-cheese sandwich (his favorite sandwich), he’s actually an evil genius with a vast empire that can control just about every aspect of his daily life. He’s got special devices in the water fountains to he’ll get chocolate shakes when he pushes a certain button, he’s got a vast evil empire that can make all of his day to day problems seemingly vanish and he’s got an attack dog that responds only to his commands in an obscure language.

But all great evil geniuses must have a nemesis–and for Oliver, it’s his father. Oliver looks down on his father, seeing him as unworthy to have a son such as Oliver. But yet Oliver still seeks his approval. So when Oliver is nominated to be class president, an office his father won and held at a young age, Oliver sees his chance to win parental approval. After quickly removing his two opponents, Oliver believes he has clear sailing to the office and paternal approval.

I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil And I Want To Be Your Class President caught my attention simply because of the title. Of course, cover blurbs by Judd Apatow didn’t exactly hurt the interest either nor did the fact that the early goings of this novel are very funny, clever and amusing. The various ways in which Oliver uses his evil powers to manipulate those around him is funny and steeped in geek references galore. When Oliver first declines the class president nomination, he’s forced to bribe his way back in using a rocket-shooting Boba-Fett figure as a bribe. Since only six exist in the world and none of the collectors are willing to sell, Oliver must go to extreme lengths to get one and get back into the race.

Oliver’s narration, asides and illustrative photographs throughout the novel are a lot of fun. However, like an SNL skit, the concept is stretched a bit too far and it ends up being less compelling, funny and entertaining as the novel comes down the home stretch. The one thread that rescues the final third of the novel is once his mother becomes his campaign manager and finds she has more in common with junior high girls than she does her adult contemporaries.

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Review: Spider-Man: The Vengeance of Venom

Spider-Man: The Vengeance of Venom

While I was reading “The Amazing Spider-Man” when the mysterious black suit was first introduced, I concluded my regular reading of the comic books about the time Peter Parker finally severed his link with the suit, leading to the creation of Venom.

So that may be part of the reason I don’t really consider Venom one of the great villains in the Spider-Man pantheon along side the likes of Doc Ock, the Green Goblin or the Scorpion (I’m still dreaming of a big-screen adventure with the Scorpion as the main adversary. I have a feeling this will not be happening any time soon).

Reading this collection of stories center on Venom’s returning time and again, a thought struck me–in many ways Venom is to the Spider-Man comics what the Master was to 1980′s Doctor Who. He was the villain you kept thinking was gone for good only to crop up again a year or so later to menace our hero yet again.

“The Vengeance of Venom” collects four Venom arcs together and each time we see Spidey barely defeat his “greatest foe” and each time hoping that Venom is gone for good this time. It’s all well and good until we need to bring Venom back to sell some more comics (I recall a Ren and Stimpy comic of this era with a Spider-Man crossover in which our hero contemplates having a foil-embossed cover with Venom on it to increase sales….funny because it’s true!) and then the symbiote and Eddie Brock are back for more mayhem and threatening Spider-Man’s very existence.

I suppose had I read these stories over the course of a couple of years instead of all in one big gulp, I might be more inclined to like them. Or maybe if I thought more of Venom as a villain and character, I’d be more intrigued. Instead, most of what we get here has the feeling of “been there, done that.”

The one intriguing twist on the standard Venom comes back story is from Peter David. The one issue “Trial of Venom” brings up some intriguing ideas about Venom and I found myself wishing these had been explored a bit more. Instead, we have a few interesting ideas brought up before everyone has to start pounding on each other again.

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Review: Where Are You Now by Mary Higgins Clark

Where Are You Now? A decade ago, Charles MacKenzie Jr (better known as Mack) mysterious disappeared before his graduation from Columbia University. Each year on Mother’s Day, he calls home to assure his mother he’s fine and to ask his family not to look for him.

When Mack’s younger sister Caroline decides to try and piece together what happened to her brother and why, Mack warns her off by dropping a note in the collection plate at his uncle’s church. Not dissuaded by the warning, Caroline begins to delve deeper into the mystery of why Mack went away, straining her relationship with her mother and opening up connections with some of Mack’s old friends and acquaintances.

When a young college student, Lisa “Leesey” Andrews disappears, calling home to her father and brother to tell them not to look for her and she’ll call each Mother’s Day to assure them she’s fine, the police begin looking at Mack’s disappearance in a new light. Is there a connection between the two crimes or a possible greater pattern at work?

Filled with red herrings and potential suspects, Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are You Now has an intriguing hook that carries the novel for its first half. Caroline’s digging and asking questions about the past and its potential connection to the current case drives the first half of the novel with Clark hinting there’s more than meets the eye about the disappearances. However, somewhere around the mid-point of the novel, the story begins to spin its wheels, covering a lot of the same ground multiple time without really advancing the storyline or introducing any new substantial clues to the mystery. By the time I reached the denouncement of who was behind the disappearances and why, my interest had waned substantially and the novel had lost its early element of page-turning suspense.

Perhaps had the novel been fifty to a hundred pages shorter, it might have been a more effective story and one that truly earned Clark the title of “The Queen of Suspense.”

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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Close to a decade after he revitalized the Batman franchise, director Christopher Nolan brings his more grounded take on the Dark Knight to a close with a triumphant film that not only ranks as one of the best super hero movies ever made but as one of the best films of the year–superhero or otherwise.

The Dark Knight Rises is a triumph and one that the minute you’re done seeing it, you’ll want to see it several more times.

Opening eight years after the close of The Dark Knight, Rises finds Gotham enjoying a huge drop in crime thanks to legislation passed in honor of Harvey Dent.   But the decision to allow Batman to take the fall instead of revealing what happened to Dent in his final hours haunts both the reclusive Bruce Wayne, who has given up the Bat-mantle and Commissioner Jim Gordon.    Gordon is wracked by guilt and Wayne is tortured by memories of Rachel and her death. Continue reading

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TV Review: Breaking Bad, Eureka

It’s kind of a bittersweet week for two of my favorite shows.  Breaking Bad makes its return, kicking off the fifth and final season of what is one of the best–and most addictive–shows on TV.  Then we’ve got Eureka winding up its five season on the air with a series finale that, for the most part, hits all the right notes.

I’ll get into details on each one, including SPOILERS for both (and for the entire run of both shows) but first let’s all declare it Miller Time for both shows…

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