Monday, March 15, 2010

This 'N' That: the mega post

Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade
I turned on the computer Saturday morning and surveyed the DMN home page that comes up with a sleepy eye before coming alert with a shriek. How could I have forgotten? I don't actually have an objection to the parade itself but we live four blocks (four loooong blocks) away and my grocery store is right next to the parade route which means no parking ... all day long.

Hasty ablutions, quick consulting with Tom who said that if there was no parking he'd drop me off and pick me up, and made it by 8:30 to the Central Market which, blessedly, had security personnel this year turning away anyone but customers. The store was still fairly full of green garbed runners and families as they stocked up for various things but true shoppers were few and far between.

Zoe, Wash, and The Big Morning Walk
We went ahead and walked to the parade with the dogs later that morning. Wash, laid back as always, accepted any and all "drive by" patting. He did not, however, approve of other dogs that he saw. This, evidently, was his parade and sharing with other dogs was not approved. Much barking and lunging ensued periodically.

Zoe, much more intense and skittish, didn't mind the dogs but both longed for and distrusted various hands thrust in her direction. Eventually she relaxed and a good time was had by all. Except that during one of Zoe's skittish episodes, she went one way and I the other ... the result a sprained ankle. Darn. Had to sit around all day after that. Well, if I must, I must ...

It is amazing how many people have Boxers. They all come out of the woodwork when we take Zoe and Wash anywhere, telling many a tale of childhood companions or current canines who are home reclining in luxury on couches.

Tom liked the interpretive spirit showed in the flag for the Texas Irish Bicycling Team above. See how they have taken the Irish flag, remade it in the Texas flag design and used a shamrock instead of the Lone Star. Nicely done.

I was surprised at how elaborate some of the floats were. Also at how many there were ... the parade just kept going and going and going. My favorite was one that I couldn't figure out the sponsor for until it went past. In the front sat an aged man with a somewhat solemn countenance. The other people on the float weren't throwing beads but were simply waving. It was beautifully decorated with artistic symbols and I wondered if perhaps it was for a local restaurant. Then I saw the sign on the back. Of course. The local Hare Krishna temple from lower Greenville. I liked the spirit that had them joining in the "neighborhood" parade. Albeit a gigantic neighborhood. The news said that 80,000 people attended. Greenville is a long road, but still ...

Despite what I read in some places, television still has some excellent entertainment value ... yes, even on the plain old networks. One must be discriminating, but, then, when must one not be discriminating?
  • House, M.D.: the last episode, Private Lies, was interesting in our household because the patient was a blogger. The sort of blogger who tells all, and I mean all. Partway in, I told Tom that I could identify too much with her because what I really wanted to know was her daily hits. (so sad, so true...). The true theme for the show was exploring connectedness and privacy. As always they did a nice job of exploring different aspects of these through the various story lines, although I have a very hard time believing that Chase didn't always know that he is adorable. Especially with that soft Australian accent. Most interesting from the blogging aspect was the question of how a blogger treads that thin line between truly blogging and being themselves and turning it into performance art. I would venture to say that anyone who has blogged for long has seen how this could happen. Whether a blogger crosses that line (and it can happen multiple times, back and forth) I think depends on their main purpose in blogging. And even then it can become a difficult issue occasionally.
  • Parenthood: tried the first episode of this. Run far, run fast, but do not waste your time on this. It fell prey to the desire to please everyone by resolving all the issues with a smile and a big hug. When the crusty father went over to give his crying grown son a big hug, we knew nothing was redeemable there. Or perhaps we just know the movie too well. Jason Robards' character never would have given in that fast. It was all too, too fake ...
  • The Good Wife: this series just gets better and better. Now that the husband is home on house arrest, various other subplots are being spun out. That is less interesting, frankly, than the weekly cases that are being tried and the law firm's constant quest for money to keep afloat. The strengths are in the fact that much of the response is underplayed by different characters which leaves us open to interpret and think about issues a bit more than other shows. Parenthood writers could learn a lot from watching how this show handles emotions and plot development.
  • The Jupiter Myth - Lindsey Davis: Out of new fiction I wandered to my bookshelves and discovered that I hadn't perused Lindsey Davis in some time. The Jupiter Myth was one of her books that I most enjoyed as it combines a look at life in ancient Londinum with a well conceived mystery that is investigated by her wise cracking, cynical detective, Falco. As well, a few old friends from the series are roped into service.#15.
  • Alexandria - Lindsey Davis: Marcus Didius Falco and family are on vacation in Alexandria, cadging lodgings off of his uncle. As a known agent of Emperor Vespasian he gets co-opted to investigate when there is a murder at the great library. This is carried off with the usual flourish of family detail, historical knowledge and pure fun and sass that Lindsey Davis brings to her series. However, the true solution to the murder was almost thrown in as an afterthought which I found most unsatisfactory.#17
  • The Demon and the City - Liz Williams: Much more Demon Zhu Irzh-centric, this is the second book in the series begun in Snake Agent. Detective Inspector Chen is on holiday in Hawaii leaving Demon Zhu Irzh holding the fort when the feng shui goes terribly awry in Singapore. Naturally this means mighty plots are afoot to take over earth ... this time from Heaven (based loosely on Chinese mythology). Also a cracking good yarn. Liz William's twist on Chinese mythology intersecting with our world makes a weird kind of sense for anyone who knows even the littlest bit about their concepts of heaven, hell and the gods. #18
  • How to Disappear Completely - Myke Bartlett. Urban fantasy at its best, this audiobook has hints of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere without being derivative. Quite a feat and one that Myke Bartlett pulls off perfectly. "Part film noir detective story, part fantasy adventure, part East End gangster tale, How to Disappear Completely concerns Theo Braithwaite, a failed actress and worse waitress, becoming involved in an unseen world populated by history's rejects and runaways from a secret society known as The Footmen. A stranger to London, waiting for life to come and find her, she is instead found by a part-time thief called Kilbey Salmon who, along with his rockabilly-obsessed partner, is attempting to eke out a living stealing things that have already been stolen and finding people who don't want to be found." Only available as an audiobook, but truly worth your time. #20
  • The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle: An American detective living in London is approached to find a young woman who disappeared. Although this is a mystery, it is largely an intersection of "what if" the Celtic myth of people being kidnapped into faerie lands were true. Told from the weary detective's point of view, the story takes on also the flavor of his knowing such things are possible but feeling a sense of personal failure over the people who much more legitimately disappeared in his own life (his father, his girlfriend). A quick read, not elaborately detailed, yet still an attention grabber and one that left me thinking about the story when I had to stop and do other things. #21.
  • Night Train from Memphis by Elizabeth Peters: Elizabeth Peters is, I believe, this author's real name. She also writes under Barbara Michaels. The joke inherent in this knowledge is that Barbara Michaels writes romantic mysteries while Elizabeth Peters makes fun of the genre while still writing legitimately romantic mysteries. This is where she gets to have a bit of fun. My favorites of her Elizabeth Peter's series are the Vicky Bliss books. This is the last of the series, as to my everlasting regret Ms. Peters has focused on Amelia Peabody who I find deadly boring except for the very first book of that series.

    This book combines country and western with Egyptology, searching for the lost treasure of Troy, a variant of the English country house murder (carried out on a barge floating down the Nile), and, of course, true love with a scoundrel who has a heart of gold. No wonder I enjoy rereading this book. #23.
  • Precious Dragon by Liz Williams: Williams almost has too many characters doing too much in too many situations here. However, she pulls it off. I love Mrs. Pa's character and enjoyed the discovery of what lies at the bottom level of Hell, although I found the sudden craziness of the Emperor of Heaven rather too much. I still enjoyed it overall though.

    Rereading this I rediscovered that she suddenly develops a linguistic twitch partway into the book. Or perhaps that is simply where it forced its way into my consciousness. At any rate, once you have noticed that she uses "given" every three sentences or so, it becomes so very annoying that it is difficult forcing one's way past it. Where was the editor? Dozing? Or perhaps in love with that phrase. Given that I am not, one might take it as a given that I was unable to force my way through the next book in the series, The Shadow Pavilion. Especially given the fact that not only is Williams using given sometimes three times in a paragraph, she crammed even more characters in more situations into this one. Nope. I'm not going along for that ride. #24
  • Fallen Rain by Barry Eisler: Recommended by Matt. American born, half-Japanese, John Rain is a professional hit man with a strict set of rules for his targets: no women or children, only principles in a dispute. He specializes in "natural causes" deaths and has just pulled one off while giving us a bit of back story. Interestingly as the story goes on through fascinating twists and turns, we are not asked to find John a sympathetic character. We learn more of his story so that his life's work makes more sense but the character does not work to become likable. I like that since he's a hit man ... seems more "real" that way. Although he seems so American in his thinking that i tend to forget he looks Japanese and sometimes have to remind myself and "fix" my mental picture when that is important to the story, as it sometimes is. #25
  • Shapers by Robert Chase: Reread this for the first time since I read it originally. Robert Chse has created a truly innovative alien species and we are thrust into his universe willy nilly along with the protagonist ... who is an amnesiac recovering from a space ship crash. What is his goal? Who is he really? And how do we understand the Shaper species and their human "herds?" Fascinating and says much about what it means to be a human being, as do all his books. I had forgotten just how strong a statement this book makes about the value of life and the power of the human spirit. Highest recommendation, with the warning that it can be a difficult book to grasp. Just go with the flow the first time through.#22
  • The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch: Can't remember where I found this book reviewed ... possibly SF Site ... but I was intrigued by a book that is written backwards and where the time travel is only within a prescribed amount of time in a person's life. However, it soon became rather tedious to see this poor fellow have to repeatedly work backwards every hour or so. This is nothing that good plotting or good characterization couldn't have overcome. Too bad this book so consistently skimmed the surface on both. #26


  1. thanks for saving me from Parenthood. I was tempted to watch it.
    Now The Good Wife...I love The Good Wife. Good writing, good actors, very enjoyable.

  2. Actually, neither Elizabeth Peters nor Barbara Michaels is her real name. She's really Barbara Mertz.

    She's got a couple of popularization Egyptian history/archeology nonfiction books out in reprint, with updates to keep up with the field. Good stuff.

  3. Zoe? Wash? Forgive me if I've missed it before, but these names wouldn't be related to a certain excellent, canceled sci-fi show I enjoy, would they?

  4. Well, heck, Suburbanbanshee beat me to it. Barbara Mertz indeed; and yes, her two non-fiction books on Egyptology are quite good: Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphics, and Red Land, Black Land. She has a Ph.D in Egyptology from the University of Chicago.

  5. M.B., indeed yes and you get two gold stars for catching the reference. So few do. It was a three day process to select their names.

  6. I forgot all about the parade, but found out soon enough while out running errands Saturday morning. It took forever to get from 75 past Greenville on Mockingbird. Needless to say, I took a different route home...

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!