Thursday, September 29, 2005

A bit about the Red Sox

Naturally, at this point of the season I'm concerned about Boston. The Damned Yankees have recovered from being five games back to actually leading the division by half a game. It looks like the Sox are going to have to look towards the 'wild card' if they don't get their act together. The fact that the season is going to end with the two teams facing each other in Fenway is going to be exciting, but worrisome. This isn't the same team that ended the curse last season. Fingers remain crossed here (and how does he type that way?).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Some more of the Fall Season

Caught the season premieres of both WEST WING & CROSSING JORDAN. These are among our favorites so we were glad to see them both returning.

I'm glad that the Henry Winkler character is gone from CJ, although he was good in the role. It is almost impossible to see him after dramatic roles here, and on LAW & ORDER previously, and to visualize him only as The Fonz. Winkler has much more depth as an actor than I would have thought. I expect his character may return later in the season, but as written there wasn't much room for growth, since it was inevitable that Miguel Ferrer would return as M.E.

Donna and I both figure this to be the last season for WEST WING. Interesting that it would begin with a flash forward to three years hence, with an older ex-President Bartlett at the opening of his Presidential library. We see some familiar faces, but do not see who the current President may be as he steps from a limo. It would be interesting to see Alan Alda's Republican Senator Vinick win the election, just to see how the show's writers deal with the shift and how the White House staff would have to change. (Face it, just about an entire new supporting cast) For that reason I expect the Jimmy Smits character will win the election.

The new THRESHOLD continues to have my attention. The male lead, Brian Van Hold, hardly had a part in this Friday's episode, but Brent Spiner continues to stand out. I love Peter Dinklage, since his character doesn't depend on his stature, but on his intellect. This last episode had a much darker X-Files feel to it, taking place in a military school with some really creepy scenes involving the youngest cadets stalking Carla Gugino's Molly. Still recommended!

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Due to our watching the unfolding events at LAX last night, Donna and I only caught the last ten minutes of LOST. This despite eagerly awaiting the preview for the past week. I'm sure the thing will be rerun again soon, considering that it's one of the networks highest rated show (and its recently winning an Emmy).

Shaun Cassidy seems to have another winner on his hands with INVASION. As with AMERICAN GOTHIC, Cassidy is able to get into the mindset of small town life and the different characters who make it up. Also, he really does have a thing for making the local law something other than they appear on the surface. It appears here that the sheriff was an early recruit into whatever it is that is taking place here. We've got several mysteries going on here and I can't wait to see things unfold. Recommended!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NBC's Alien Encounter shows

Caught the first few shows I've been interested in watching, both of a science fiction nature. NBC's THRESHOLD features an alien invasion of John Carpenter's THE THING type, where alien contact spreads through a group changing them physically. The group of scientists out to track them down include Brett Spiner, so that makes it a must see. On the other hand, I was not impressed by the first episode of NBC's other SF show, SURFACE with a government conspiracy to cover up the existence of an unknown species of ocean dwelling creatures. I think the show is trying to spread its net too wide (if you'll forgive the metaphor) with the 'good' scientists, the brother out for revenge and two kids trying to hide one of the creatures ET style. With so many story lines and characters you don't care much for any of them. Personally, I'd end the kid plot really quick.

I'm curious about ABC's upcoming INVASION, which also features an alien race coming to Earth for who knows what.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Watching the Emmy Awards

Ellen DeGeneres, did a fairly decent job even with some dudes in the opening monologue. It was nice hearing Earth, Wind & Fire along with the Black Eyed Peas doing their modified hit. Also, any show which has Donald Trump singing the theme for GREEN ACRES plus William Shatner doing William Shatner is worth sitting up on a Sunday night 'til 11:00pm.

John Stewart and his writers deserved the two awards they received, and Stewart's taped bit was amazing and very well received by the audience. It was political, naturally, but overall there were only a few overtly political mentions during the telecast, plus several mentions of the recovery from Hurricane Katrina still going on.

Finally a nice tribute to Peter Jennings by his fellow anchors Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, as well as an equally fine one to Johnny Carson by David Letterman.

Not a great telecast, but it actually finished on time and moved fairly well with minimum goofs.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Book Review: Year of the Armadillo by Jericho Ring

Since I never know exactly how long it will be before the good folks over at the Joe Bob Briggs Report site will post my reviews I always like to post them here first. What I put here is the first draft, before any editorial changes are requested or made. In other words, don't blame John over at the site, what you see is what this non-writer has put together.

I have to admit that had I been skimming the backcover of this book on the shelves, I very much doubt that I would have picked it up. Discovering authors with whom I'm not familiar is one the nice things about doing these reviews, besides getting to keep the books when I'm finished. I found the book to be a pleasant surprise and look forward to reading further books in the series when available.

This book might not be your cup of tea, depending on how 'politically correct' you are (and I do hate using that phrase but think it fits in this case). Check out my review and then head over to the site to read an excerpt. (Click on the headline above)

Year of the Armadillo by Jericho Ring – For twenty-four hours, beginning at midnight New Year’s Eve in 2025, communication equipment throughout the world broadcasts a single message. It states simply that if the world does not diminish the population by one third in the next year it will be done for them. Shortly thereafter, one out of every three persons from El Paso, TX disappears without a trace. All this happens in the first few pages and it just gets better.

Naturally, the various world governments agree that it is necessary to do something, or rather appear to do something, since it all might work out in their best interest in the long run. The United States (comprised of fifty-four states; five of which used to be a united Texas, but minus Alaska which dropped out feeling they were better off as a territory) under the leadership of President Beulah Clinton is in agreement with this policy, since it doesn’t require her to do much. It’s obvious from the outset that the author wants to poke some fun at our political system and he does so brilliantly.

Ring seems to know his stuff, whether it’s political philosophy or armaments (real or imagined). The book brought to mind Stanley Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE, with a military coup which sets off a very dangerous series of events. The author’s Air Marshall Rockwell “Rocky” Stone is right up there with General Jack Ripper as a brilliant comedic invention. In fact, just about every character in the book has a wonderful depth and personal history which makes the reader want to learn more about them. From Cortez Jones and free-lance journalist Maureen ‘Mimi’ de Loria, right up to President Clinton, Ring has the ability to bring them to life on the page. The only serious drawback I had was with the ghetto speak that Beulah constantly comes out with. She reminds me of the “Black Mama” character that comedian Artie Lange used to play on MAD TV (“I’m a goin’ to put ma’ foot up yo ass!”) Even in a book striving for satire this is a bit much to accept from the President, although I’ll give Ring a pass because of Beulah’s explanation.

The books subtitle is ‘Book One – January’ and the book includes a chapter from the second book, so we are safe to assume that Ring will be dealing with the final outcome of the coup, possible nuclear annihilation and, of course, just who was responsible for the original message and what their final plan may be. Characters like Cortez, Travis McGinty and General Charlie Brown of the Texas Militia (whom Ring claims is based on a real person) are just too good to be confined to a single book. A few scenes in the book had me reminiscing about my nights drinking beer & Jack Daniels around a fire in the California desert, after a day of blasting cactus with enough small arms to make the Manson Family jealous. If an old Liberal like me can root for libertarian militia men, I think that you more enlightened folks just might want to give this book a shot.

Four stars
Published by: Xlibris Corporation
ISBN: 1-4134-6788-1; $18.69 paperback

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I am NOT a writer!

As a kid growing up in Taftville, I hoped that one day I would be a writer. I must have begun writing short stories to entertain myself back in junior high and later to share with friends when I was in high school. I think my very first Creative Writing class in senior year proved that I was not cut out for the writing life. It was at that point I decided that I would stick to being a reader of people who did have talent. In the mid-1970s, while attending college I once more deceived myself into believing that I had some kind of skill and again my professors reminded me that I did not have what it would take to be taken seriously.

Oddly enough one of the few positive comments I had up to that point was from the poet Robert Bly (he of IRON JOHN and “beating a drum in the forest to get in touch with your manhood” fame), who had been invited to speak at the college by my English teacher. She then invited him to read through some of the submissions from the class. Our assignment had been to write a book review in the style of the author we were reviewing. I had just finished reading a book by Hunter Thompson. Of the more than two dozen students in the class he picked out my review for praise and said that I had potential if I learned to “write from (my) gut.” Have I told you that I have never liked Bly? I took this as yet another sign that I was not talented enough and put everything aside once again.

Since 1980 I have been writing for various Amateur Press Associations (APAs), a few fanzines and actually sold one article to a magazine aimed at librarians. For the past four years I have been doing book reviews for the Joe Bob Briggs Report, along with posting to both my blogs several times a week. I am not, as I have tried to tell everyone, a writer.

All of this is just by way of explaining why I decided not to accept an invitation to write a column for a new website. I’ll not embarrass the editor for being nice enough to invite me to take part, but it just wouldn’t be fair to him or his readers.

I’m not a writer.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Beer & the Boston Red Sox

This past Saturday Donna was hosting a baby shower for her younger sister and I was on my own. After spending a few hours watching bad movies on SCI FI I headed back to New Corners the restaurant where the shower was being held. Naturally, with my sense of time, I was about an hour and a half early. Donna chased me out and told me to come back later, so I figured that the bar was the best place to hang out.

Being a life-long Red Sox fan there is very little as uncomforable as being in a bar full of Yankee fans. Especially, Yankee fans who are also drinking and saying some unkind things about my team and its fans. Having survived a similar experience back in '86 in a bar in Queens, during the sixth game of the World Series between the Mets & Boston, I knew that the secret of survival was absolute silence. Trust me, with the Sox kicking butt & taking names for most of the game it was pretty difficult not to say anything. The three beers did help to mellow me out though, I will admit.

Of course, it would have been nice if Boston had also won Sunday's game to keep them more than three games ahead. Still we have our fingers crossed that the Beantowner's won't suddenly rediscover the Bambino's curse.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Review: GUNSLINGER by Ed Gorman

Gunslinger, and Nine Other Action-Packed Stories of the Wild West by Ed Gorman (Barricade Press) : Ed Gorman is possibly better known to folks as the creator of both the Sam McCain and Jack Dwyer mystery series among other suspense novels. He is a past winner of the Shamus Award for detective fiction, but also the Spur for his western writing. The short stories & essays included in this volume go back some twenty years, reprinted from a number of collections and western themed magazines. While some are what one might expect in such a collection (gunfighters and sheriffs hunting down evil doers) there are also a few of a gentler nature. The lonesome soldier whose attempt to rescue his ‘true love’ goes terribly wrong; the traveling executioner and how he spends the evening prior; and finally the aging fanzine writer & western fan (Okay, don’t even say it!) who finally meets his childhood idol. There is also a nice essay on the late Roy Rogers and just how one writes ‘modern western tales’. Recommended for fans of Gorman, westerns and just find short story writing in general.

If you head over to the Joe Bob Briggs site you’ll find that they have finally posted a few of my reviews. I think that there are only one or two which haven’t shown up yet, but I’ve posted them either here or over at PARTING SHOTS anyway. It’s also good to see that they are finally getting around to posting some newer material from Joe Bob himself.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

ABC this Fall

Not much of import to put out, just a few things which have come to mind.

Direct TV, which Donna and I have, has a channel which has been broadcasting previews of the Fall Season. These include the major networks, cable channels and pay channels like HBO & SHOWTIME. These are in rotation for a few days in a row, with each channels preview lasting from generally around a half hour to an hour. I haven't watched them all, since we don't have the premium channels and rarely watch either the WB or UPN.

It was interesting the other day to catch the ABC preview, which consisted of a solid 20+minutes of a recap of LOST. It didn't really hint what might be up-coming but was good for folks who may have heard of the show, but not been tuning in. In my opinion, LOST (along with THE 4400 on USA Network) are two of the best 'sf/fantasy' shows being shown. The ensemble casts are good with a lot of stand-out performances and solid scripts. The second series of 4400 episodes finished the other week, so Donna and I are more than ready for LOST to return.

It was also interesting to see the preview for the new ABC show, INVASION. Sean Cassidy (yeah, the former teen idol) once again is the writer/producer on a dramatic series. His first AMERICAN GOTHIC didn't last long but there are still folks who consider it a classic bit of creepiness.

ABC has actually pulled the regular ads for the show which were to be broadcast in prime time, as the show's premise deals with an alien invasion which uses a hurricane in Florida as cover. DUring the recovery and reconstruction which takes place some folks gradually begin to realize that something has occurred besides natural destruction.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Should I care at this point?

Given the current situation in the southern part of the U.S. and the effect it is having nationally, I feel rather silly even caring about baseball. Then again, as the first President Bush said following the destruction caused by a hurricane during his administration, "Life goes on."

The wild card spots becoming more settled and each division race is coming into focus. Heck, when even the hapless Mets are with a half game of a spot you wonder who can't come out ahead at this point. Fingers crossed here at Chez Chaput that the Red Sox won't stumble at the finish line.

If I don't get a chance to post later today, I hope that you all have a good holiday weekend. Spend a moment to think of those less fortunate and donate some money, if you can. We're all in this together!