Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Here's the second review that I've done for the Joe Bob website. I'm still waiting to see the first posted, but the books are piling up and if I ever want to read anything BUT the review books I better not wait.

I may make a few changes before I submit this, but I'm pretty satisfied with the review as it now stands.

With a Vengeance by Eileen Dreyer; published by St. Martin’s Press

Face it, everybody has a ‘List’, whether you call it that or not. There are just some folks who piss you off so much that you’d like to see them put up against a wall and shot. You may not put it down on paper, but somewhere in the back of you mind you probably add at least one person to that list every week. Maybe you and some co-workers, or some friends, even share a list. The boss is probably there, plus a particularly annoying salesperson or the guy who ‘fixes’ the photocopier which breaks down within an hour of his visit.

Now suppose there are a group of folks who not only have such a list, but actually go and do something about it. Their list doesn’t include just folks who are annoying, but folks who are dangerous. Rapists, child molesters, wife beaters and a whole range of people that the world would not miss and might actually be better off without.

Dreyer introduces us to Maggie O’Brien, trauma nurse and medic on a SWAT team. Maggie is the daughter of a former policeman, who was ‘retired’ from the force when he took the rap for a junior officer guilty of police brutality. Much to the disgust of her father, Maggie is not following in his footsteps. She not only does not become a police officer, but even now that she is a member of SWAT, she refuses to carry a gun.

Maggie knows about The List, which is scribbled on the break room in the hospital in which she works. Not only that, but Maggie herself has written more than a few names herself. It’s only when she witnesses the death of a homeless man, whom she has befriended, that she begins to suspect that some folks around her are taking The List a bit more seriously than she does.

Dreyer, herself a forensic nurse, creates in Maggie a believable and troubled woman. Taught, from childhood, to believe in justice, Maggie finds that those whom she has considered her friends may have a very, different idea of how justice can be achieved.

I have a feeling that I probably should have made this review longer, but I don't want to pad the thing.
If I've done it correctly you'll find a new link to the Mystic Seaport over on the righthand side of this Blog. Having been raised less than a 45 minute drive from the place, the Mystic area is familiar and one of the best places to spend a peaceful Spring/Summer/Fall day. The Seaport itself, part museum & part working marina, is only part of the things available in the area.

From downtown Mystic itself, with it's restaurants (including the famous Mystic Pizza), crafts & antique shops and book stores, to the Mystic Aquarium, on the other end of the seaport, with the delightful Old Mystic Village (a group of shops featuring nautical and colonial crafts and merchandise).

When I was a kid it was just a thrill to look at the old ships and wander the winding streets. Today the area has become a tourist stop along the cost, either on the way to or from the two Native American casinos.

The Mystic Seaport museum & library are doing some amazing things to preserve the culture of the area and of the New England maritime heritage. I'd be remiss in not pointing it out to you, since it's one of the reasons that I'll always consider myself a Connecticut Yankee, no matter where I live.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The New York Times on-line Travel section has this article on taking the family to Las Vegas. This sought of ties in with the previous article I mentioned on Treasure Island casino closing down their great, pirate show.

While I don't agree with everything that the writer has to say about Vegas, I do think that the city really is trying to reach out beyond the regular gamblers and entice families to take a chance.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Just read about this story over on Mark Evanier's website. I had a couple of immediate reactions and wanted to get them down.

I think the move is a shame and might come back to bite the owners of Treasure Island. If you haven't seen the Pirate show you really have missed quite a performance. Two scale model ships, one a pirate vessel the other a British man-of-war, actually do battle with cannons in the small moat that fronts the casino. I can't imagine that the casino loses money on this show, even though I'm sure it is expensive. The crowds that show up for every performance are not only comprised of casino guests, but also folks staying at other casinos. While I doubt that everyone in attendance immediately goes inside, I'm sure that more than enough do so at some point during their stay in Vegas to more than make up for whatever it costs.

Also, the show is one of those things that can truly be enjoyed by the 'whole family'. To replace it with something 'sexier' seems short-sighted, IMHO. Just about everyone you speak to who has been to Vegas tries to see the show or has seen it. Folks recommend it to each other as a 'must-see' event.

I've seen the show twice over the years. First with my ex-wife (and fellow Blogger) Elayne, and just a few months ago with my current wife, Donna, my step-daughter, Kristina, plus several of Donna's family. Half of us had seen it before and it was new to the rest. It's sad to think that it won't be there next time we visit, and just might make the difference in our staying at another hotel, rather than at Treasure Island, as we did this past time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Well, I thought you folks might be interested in the final draft of my first review for the Joe Bob Briggs site. I may make a couple of changes, but this is basically what I'm going to be sending in.

By the way, I just received two more books to review in yesterday's post. I'm only a month into this and already have three books waiting to be reviewed. Now I remember what it was like the last time I tried this. :-)

Let me know what you think!

Bay of Souls – by Robert Stone: Published by Houghton Mifflin
Reviewed by Steve Chaput

A couple of years ago Richard Dreyfus starred in a short-lived television show called THE EDUCATION OF MAX BICKFORD. Dreyfus played Bickford, an aging college professor at a small, New England college. Fairly comfortable in his academic position, Bickford still felt unfulfilled emotionally and found that he had lost touch with the faith in which he had been raised, which in Bickford’s case was Jewish.

Imagine now Russell Crowe in the Dreyfus role and his college transplanted to the Midwest, or as he refers to it at one point “Flyover land.” In Stone’s novel, the professor’s name is Michael Ahearn and the faith from which he feels estranged is Catholicism. Ahearn feels a growing emptiness inside, as well as a growing alienation from his wife and son. Even the near death by overexposure of his son doesn’t bring them closer, rather just the opposite.

The only things that Michael seems to enjoy are drinking and hunting with some fellow academics. Even at those points the pleasure is mixed as Ahearn often doesn’t even fire his rifle, allowing the others to kill any deer or other prey.

One day into Michael’s life steps Lara Purcell, a new political science professor with a mysterious past. It’s not long before Michael and Lara are lovers, but there is more to Lara’s past than simply an absent husband. Lara and her late brother were not only involved in espionage, but also drug smuggling and voodoo. In fact, Lara believes that her brother had given her soul away to a voodoo priestess when she was a child. Now that he is dead she wants to get it back.

Stone may be best known for his novel DOG SOLDIERS, which was turned into the film WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN with Nick Nolte. As in that novel, Stone allows his protagonist to be drawn into a situation that not only places his life in danger, but also forces him to learn things about himself that he may not have wanted to know.

To be honest, I don’t think that Stone successfully brings any of these characters to life. They certainly don’t speak in a manner that anyone would normally. Sadly, the book never reads like anything more than a morality play, which the author would like to see brought to the screen by the addition of some exotic locales and a couple of action sequences.

Stone, reminiscent of Peter Benchley in his early novels, is at his best in those few action scenes. In those sections, especially those chapters dealing with a night dive to recover lost property in a downed airplane, it is easy to see why the author does have a loyal following.

Overall, the story doesn’t hold up and the entire thing reads like the draft of a longer novel, which Stone didn’t have time to complete before his deadline.

Now that wasn't so bad, was it?

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Just a couple of quick notes while I have the time and they are fresh in my mind.

I've discovered that I'm not a Robert Stone fan. The first third of the novel BAY OF SOULS appears to be set up for the second section, which I'm hoping it easier to wade through. I'm trying to overlook the fact that the protagonist is a total whiner who appears almost resentful that his son has survived a near fatal case of overexposure in a storm, but it isn't making it easy to care about anything he does. Also, Stone appears to be one of those writers who write dialogue as if the characters KNOW they are characters. Real folks DO NOT talk like this, even it they are supposed to be college professors. Hey, I'm here in academia and the professors I sit around with seem quite capable of speaking the way everybody else does. On top of that, it's hard not to ignore a comment in one of the interviews with Stone that was sent in the press package, in which he actually calls HIMSELF a 'writers writer!' Pardon my ego!

Oh, and I was surprised to discover a second package from the Joe Bob folks last night when I got home, with yet another book. This one appears to be a 'medical thriller', which may be a bit easier to take. I'll keep you all updated.

Wasn't sure how to take this, so I thought I'd just report that I read an article today which said that the folks who recent purchased THE NASHVILLE NETWORK and decided to change the name and format have discovered both their ratings and ad revenue in steep decline. Appears there were more Country fans out there than the boys in New York had thought. The plan now is to change the name and format again.

The network will soon be known as SPIKE, which will be promoted as a 'man's network'. Apparently, the various sports networks and cable stations directed at hunting & fishing fans are not manly enough for the Madison Avenue folks. I would almost think that this was a joke, but then I'm not a highly paid consultant on this type of thing. :-)

Btw, it was over 80 degrees today and the weather folks are predicting a drop of 30+ degrees overnight. What the hell happened to Spring?

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

As things stand today we are going to book a cruise with Celebrity Cruiselines for Bermuda. We just haven't decided on a set date yet, although it will probably be sometimes in mid to late September. We're figuring that not only do the rates go down, but the cruise itself is likely to be relatively kid-free, since school will have started for just about everyone at that point.

Hey, don't get me wrong! We like kids (Donna even has a daughter!), but we'd like to spend our 7-days pretty much away from the rug rats.

After several hitches in the U.S. Navy you might think that I'd rather not find myself at sea again, but to be honest I actually loved those parts of each deployment where we'd be mid-Atlantic or cruising the coast. As peaceful as it can be sitting on the beach and watching the waves, the feeling of being completely out of sight of land, surrounded by the ocean is unbelievable. The skies at night are so full of stars that you can't compare them to even the clearest night that you've ever spent on land. (Okay, I will admit that there were occasions in California & Colorado where the night skies could be fantastic. Those had to be spent outside the city limits, either in the Rockies or in the desert.)

The first 'commercial' cruise I ever took was on Carnival Cruiseline which was introducing it's newest ship the Triumph with four to five night cruises to Nova Scotia, out of New York City. Donna, who had sailed before convinced me that it would be fun so we booked a four night cruise to Halifax. Just about everyone that I'd talked to, both before and after we confirmed, said that once you'd cruised you would immediately start planning your next. Well, it might not be true of everyone, but for Donna and myself it certainly was.

I'll probably have more to add on this tomorrow, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Monday, April 14, 2003

I'll probably have more to add on this particular topic later, but Donna and I have been spending way too many hours trying to plan our next vacation. It's actually funny, since we plan various trips to places like California or Florida and then convince ourselves that we'd have a better time at less expense by taking a cruise. At this point, with several cruises behind us you'd think we'd just be honest and stick to cruising. :-)

Things are still in flux, but I'll have a few things to say about cruising in general and the particular cruises we've taken together in the next few days.

As far as the war goes, why are we bothering bringing any ships or troops home, since the Administration seems more than ready to send us into Syria at any moment. It's only the beginning folks, only the beginning!
Don't bother asking what I've been up to, since it really hasn't been important enough to mention. Chalk it up to my famous procrastination and leave it at that. :-)

Some of you who may remember my mentioning that I would soon be doing book reviews for Joe Bob Briggs' website. I just received the first book this past Saturday and will begin reading it in the next day or two. Naturally the book arrives when I'm in the middle of two books, plus listening to a third on audiotape. I'm going to put the other two books aside for the time being and but I figure I can keep track of the audiobook easily enough.

For anyone interested the two books are HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, which I've had for a couple of years, but have never gotten around to reading. Figured with the five novel due this summer it might be good to be up to date. The second book is Jack Finney's FROM TIME TO TIME which is a sequel to his fantastic TIME AND AGAIN. If you like stories of time travel, especially when they deal with the ramifications of changing the past to effect the future, you can't do much better than Finney's two novels. Finally, the audiobook is an unabridged reading of Max Allen Collins' MAJIC MAN. Collins is one of my favorite writers, whether it is his Nat Heller mysteries, his numerous movie adapations or his all too few comicbook works.

Just to let you know, the book I'll be reviewing for Joe Bob is author Robert Stone's latest novel, BAY OF SOULS. Not exactly what I had expected from being in the 'thriller' group, but I'm certainly willing to give it a try. I was especially surprised to find a 'press package' included along with the review copy. It has about a dozen reviews, interviews and articles on Stone's previous books, as well as a couple of reviews by the NY Times of BAY OF SOULS. I don't think I've had this much material pertaining to a book I've yet to read, since I was back in college. I'm going to try not to be prejudge the work, from the other reviews. In future, I think I'll hold off on reading those until I've had a chance to read the book itself.

I'll keep you abreast of my opinions of the book, as well as passing along a first draft of my review once it's finished.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Okay, so remember a month ago when we jumped the deadline and bombed Baghdad, and thought we killed Saddam. Well, we were wrong, even though we did kill somebody, but we're not sure who and since it wasn't him it really isn't that important. Anyway, yesterday somebody said they thought that Saddam and his sons were in this other place (this wasn't the same guy who said he was in the first place, but even if it is the same guy he might be right this time) so we bombed it even more then the first place.

Hell, we left a crater and everything so somebody is definetly dead, even if it takes a few days or so to find out if it's Saddam & sons this time. After all, it's not like we can't bomb someplace else if we have to?

Oh, and maybe we actually found some "Weapons of Mass Destruction" which might really be pesticides, but since somebody buried them and we dug it up it seems awfully suspicious anyway. This means we were right and there's no reason to bring up the place we found the other week where we said we found something and it turned out to be nothing at all. Let's not live in the past!

Also, we are really sorry that we shot at the Russian embassador, even if we didn't start it. It's not like we killed anybody.

We also feel pretty bad about shooting at a hotel where we knew all those journalists stay. I mean, it's pretty funny if you think about it, them staying there when they knew we were bombing and stuff. Hehe.. We did kill that one guy, but after all one of those NBC guys died from a leg cramp or something, and we can't be blamed for that. I mean these things happen, right?

Hey, you have to laugh about this stuff, don't you? I mean, Dennis Miller and Jay Leno seem to think it's okay and they seem pretty popular. Oh, and don't get me started on the Michael Moore! Boy, you got to let that election thing go after a year or so, huh? Give it a rest already! :-(

Seriously, I'm losing it with all of this stuff going on. Guys over on Fox News say that we are traitors if we don't support the President, so I'm not really looking forward to Homeland Security guys showing up.

I'm wearing my American flag tie and the Internet classical music station is playing the Star Spangled Banner. Everything is going to be just fine.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

I wish I could think of a clever text way of placing a Campbell Soup can in this site, as Mark Evanier does on his page. There really isn't something of interest to comment on each and every day, but I always feel guilty if I haven't posted for several days in a row.

Even though I had the day off yesterday (Friday, 4/5) I decided NOT to watch the news. In spite of everything going on, and quite rapidly, I find that it just depresses me. The saddest part, aside from the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians, is that George W. will use this in 2004 to ensure he has a second term. Nevermind the national debt that will cripple the economy for years. Forget the fact that, in all probablity, nothing will be done to bring real changes to the health care system. Let's not think about how conservative justices will help the Republicans further erode any Constitutional rights, any but the wealthy may have in this country. We kicked Saddam's ass! Four more years!!!

Taking a break from all that I surfed the channels and found back-to-back episodes of BUFFY. To be honest, when the show first came on the air I was quite the fan, but I don't think I've actually set down and watched an episode for the past couple of years. I was lucky enough to find that they were showing the episode in which Tara (Willow's gal-pal) is killed, followed immediately by the episode in which Willow takes vengence and goes over to the Very Dark SIde. I had forgotten how good the show was, but of course, was confused by a few of the characters who had apparently become part of the cast since my last viewing. Still I can see why the show continues to have a following and why folks are disappointed that it will be ending soon.

I was also happy to catch two episodes each of PERRY MASON (the old B&W program) and MURDER, SHE WROTE. I'm a fan of both shows, no matter how dated both appear.

Speaking of which, it's always fun to see the various 'guest stars' who appear on MSW, sometimes only for a few minutes. In one of the episodes I caught Milton Berle as a showbiz agent. I really think that Berle adlibbed some of his dialogue, especially the lines he tossed off in greetings to unseen 'friends' at a restaurant scene. Like another favorite, COLUMBO, MSW has a style that owes to the talent of their stars.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

So okay, the Mets stunk up the field and Roger "Sure I hit guys, but it's never my fault" Clemens tagged one of the Toronto Blue Jays. Meanwhile, my beloved Red Sox got beat by the Devil Rays. It's just the second day of the season and it is snowing outside!

Two quick comments while I'm thinking about it.

The bio-pic RUDY, wasn't as bad as it could have been. Hats off to James Woods for actually making the ex-Mayor of New York ALMOST likeable in a few sections of the film. If nothing else, the movie showed how self-centered and often mean spirited Guilliani could be.

I lived in Brooklyn during Rudy's terms as Mayor, as well as several years under Ed Koch and the likeable, if inept David Dinkins. The movie portrayed the man as I remember him. He truly loved the city, but had little but contempt for many of the citizens. In the end, he was indeed "the right man at the right time" for New York after 9/11. I don't think we have seen the last of him!

I'll try to have a few more words tomorrow about THE CORE, but just let me state that I was pleasantly surprised.

So! Will Donald Rumsfeld be the scapegoat in this whole thing? Is the Administration even now trying to distance George W. from the blunders that may well cause the deaths of many more American soldiers and Iraqi civilians? Will this Bush claim to be 'out of the loop' as his dad was during Iran/Contra? Meanwhile, is Powell counting the days before he can step down and begin rebuilding his own reputation? Stay tuned!