Saturday, November 18, 2017

Recent Listens

The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman narrated by Dan John Miler.  The Wrecking Crew was the informal name given to the group of studio musicians who played on most every record made in LA in the 1960s to early 1970s.  Hartman trys to focus on three of the musicians, but it was such a large group of people working on a massive amount of hits that the book lacked some focus.  There's also a bit too much fan-boying for my tastes.  It was a decent listen but in the end it left me jonesing for an oral history of the musicians.


The Other Side of Night by Daniel Allen Butler narrated by Paul Heitsch.  This books examines the night the Titanic sank by looking at the actions of the Carpathia which rushed to give aid and the Californian which did nothing.  I've always been willing to give the captain of the Californian a little slack since I've see convincing arguments that the ship might not have been as close as assumed (atmospheric conditions can distort what can be seen at sea), but Butler convinced me I've been wrong.  It doesn't really matter where the Californian was or if the ship its officers spotted was the Titanic or not, the crew reported a ship firing rockets which in nautical terms could only have been a distress signal and the captain refused to react.  I did feel the author was a touch repetitive in driving home that point, though.


Hell House by Richard Matheson narrated by Ray Porter.  My Halloween listen.  A dying rich dude wants to know if there's life after death so he hires two mediums and a physicist to investigate the most haunted house in the world.   Rather disappointing.  I didn't like any of the characters which was the main issue.  There was also some graphic sexual content which is something that I'm generally okay with, but it was weird listening to it while on the daily commute.


The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro narrated by Robertson Dean.  Caro's first book on the use of power.  Robert Moses started out trying to do good by building parks and parkways in NY but he became a victim of his own success.  His power grew and at its height, no one could oppose him even though he was not an elected official and any of his official positions could have been revoked at any time.  But then he got to the point of thinking only he could fix things.  Traffic congestion was a huge problem which he felt could only be solved by more parkways and expressways even though those were proven to breed more congestion.  He was stuck in his mindset which unfortunately was included a dislike for minorities and the poor.  His transportation solutions were car centered, ignoring the importance of mass transit.   And both his transportation construction and work on public housing left thousands of people homeless or living in worse conditions than before.  This book is somewhat unfairly I think blamed for casting Moses as a villain.  I found it to be more evenhanded giving the main credit for the vast amount of good and important work he did while pointing out his faults.  Plus Caro is damn good at making vast subjects understandable and interesting.  Moses was involved in developing infrastructure which is vital but not necessarily exciting, but not once in this 66+ hour book was I bored (although listening in parts while listening to other books in between might have helped with that, too).  The book is a beast but well worth the reading.
Note one:  I am so glad I got a smart phone this year since listening through the Audible app is much preferable to listening to a book on an MP3 player.  The length of this book inspired me to play around with listening speed.  I've discovered 1.05 speed works well for me.  There's no noticeable change in pitch or inflection at that speed but it shaves about 3 minutes off every hour of listening (or three hours off a 66 hour book).
Note two:  Caro was on C-Span's Q&A earlier this year and the host was quizzing him on his health habits.  It's nice to know I'm not the only one really concerned that 82-year-old Caro might run out of time before finishing off The Years of Lyndon Johnson.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Secret Life of a Satanist:  The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey by Blanche Barton. I expected something a bit more interesting about the world's most famous Satanist.  Part of the problem is that he as rather dull--a musician who wasn't good enough to become famous for that.  The main the problem is the author was clearly infatuated with LaVey (she later had his son).  She treats everything LaVey said as deeply meaningful truth.  There's also very little about the Church of Satan in here.  I came out of the book knowing more about LaVey's taste in music and films (naturally the stuff that was popular when he was a teenager) than about his religion.  Satanism apparently is about self-indulgence and self-interest, but what little of it that is in this book seems absolutely joyless and dull. A poorly written book about a surprisingly commonplace man.


But Enough About Me by Burt Reynolds and Jon Winokur.  More celebrities should write memoirs like this.  It's a bunch of short chapters on people who affected Reynolds life.  He hit Hollywood around the right time to hang out with some of the true movie stars as well as the up and comers of the '60s and '70s.  Being short, the stories don't get too salacious or too vicious (well except for  the chapter on Loni Anderson--Burt still hates her).  My only disappointment was that Dom DeLuise was in a miscellaneous chapter instead of one of his own.


Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson.  A nice concept but it didn't really work for me.  The first chapter on the origin of the universe was fantastic, but the rest was oddly uninteresting and occasionally lacked focus.


N or M by Agatha Christie. I was somewhat dreading this one since when I think Tommy and Tuppence, I think Postern of Fate which sucked.  The only Christie novel I gave up on was one set in ancient times (a ridiculous premise since modern concepts of justice and detection just wouldn't have worked then), but I so wish I had never read Postern.   But N or M was surprisingly good.  Set in WWII, the middle-aged couple goes undercover to undercover a spy master.  Quite enjoyable.


Hail to the Chin by Bruce Campbell and Craig Sanborn.  Picking up fifteen years after his last book, Campbell writes about moving to Oregon and living the small town life, finally having a television show run more than one season, and making movies.  Campbell is just so likable and entertaining.





Sunday, October 29, 2017

September and October Mask Mavens

Beauteque is getting much better at getting their boxes out before the end of the month.  October's theme is Transform Your Skin.
There's a couple of printed masks which I find aren't as good as non-printed ones.  There's a bubble mask that is just for the lower half of the face.  New to me brands include Healing Bird, Enprani, Mediental, and Look at Me.  Rounding out this set is a repeat Mizon that was just okay.
September's theme was Meet the Class.  New to me brands are Goodal, GD-11, Healing Bird, and Innisfree.  There's two from Leaders.  I've done one mask from that company which was good.  Tsaio is very much a hot or miss brand with me and I did not like the one mask I previously tried from this section of their line.

New brands I tried over the past two months include Adaline, Urban Dollkiss, and Mijin which were all good, RiRe which was okay but didn't cling very well, and The Saem which I did not like at all being very thin and strong smelling.  Two from Berrisom were better than the Berrisom printed masks I've tried in the past.  A'Pieu's Sweet Canola Honey House was disappointing considering this is a brand that usually does well for me.  I continue to find Welcos to be just okay.  

I'm debating skipping my next three month renewal.  I generally only mask twice a week and I have about three months worth of masks in my stash.  Still it's fun to get new brands to try every month.

Bookmarks

I finished off a set of bookmarks today.  The first are from the Bookmark Art booklet which many from my last set of bookmarks came from.

These three were free from  Leisure Arts which gives out several free patterns every Friday: a knitting, a crochet, and a sewing one.  The last can be cross stitch, quilting, or some other sewing.
 I signed up for the Free Pattern Fridays newsletter after discovering that Leisure Arts sells patterns online which is much easier than tracking down out of print bookmark patterns.    The downside is that the printed quality is not as good as a a purchased pattern, but that's a minor quibble.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Recent Reads

Why a Duck? edited by Richard J. Anobile.  A somewhat odd book consisting of excerpts of Marx Brothers films accompanied by stills.  It was published in the pre-VHS days and so was probably better than nothing for the time, but today you can easily watch the Marx Brothers practically any time you want.  Since so much of their humor is based on inflection and time, reading scenes just doesn't cut it.  Besides, Harpo's my favorite and his performances can never come across on a printed page.


Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History by Melanie Clegg.  A Kindle Prime choice.  Decent for a casual biography of Marie Antoinette.


The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie.  One of Christie's political thrillers involving attempts to reinstate a monarchy in the Balkans after WWI.  It features a few charming young characters and a mostly interesting plot.  It didn't completely hang together, but was fun.


Young Mrs. Greeley by Booth Tarkington.  Exciting--a book with only one other rating on Goodreads than my own.  It was an interesting little character study of the wife of a man on his way up who is friends with a woman whose husband is on the way down.  One of the nice things about mostly buying books from library sales is stumbling across book that otherwise I wouldn't know existed (it's not even listed on Tarkington's Wikipedia page).  i felt somewhat bad on throwing it away after reading since it was not in great shape.


My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke.  I enjoyed Keep Moving and so decided to try this one.  It cemented my idea that while I don't enjoy Van Dyke as an actor, he seems like a decent fellow. 


Death Around the Bend by T.  E. Kinsey.  My Kindle Lending Library book for September.  This is probably the weakest of the Lady Hardcastle novels.  The story's okay and I liked the characters, but most of the mystery solution was way too obvious.


Red Harvest and The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett.  I've had an omnibus edition of Hammett's novels sitting around for awhile and decided to finally get through it.  Both these stories are narrated by the Continental Op, a private investigator, and both feature very convoluted plots.  The Dain Curse is in three parts involving  a diamond theft, a cult, and a morphine addict.  Red Harvest has the Op trying to clean up corruption in a town.  It's 143 pages long and by page 100 there had been 16 murders.  16!  And most were named characters and not just assorted henchmen.  I'd actually like to read Hammett's short stories about the same character since the biggest flaw of these books was just having too much plot thrown into them.


The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes.  Another book from Prime Reading.  I wasn't getting into it early on and didn't give up.  Then I didn't give up since I'd already invested so much time in it.  Then my Kindle said I was at 50% with over 2 1/2 hours to go and I quite.  It should have been a nice heist novel.  Instead there was an overly long jail break followed by an overly long getting the team together followed by an overly long return to the capital.  I gave up when , at the halfway point, I realized there were so many characters that I didn't care about any of them and I also had no idea why most of the characters were doing what they were doing.

Lore

I was so looking forward to Amazon's new series Lore which premiered this weekend.  Based on the promo material, it seemed like it would be the perfect creepy show for October.  Oh how wrong I was.

The show is based on a podcast I've never listened to. The show explores how real life events inspired folklore. There's some use of animation and archival footage but most of the episodes consist of reenactments.  And they aren't good reenactments.  They're not even Discovery Channel level but are more like the type of things you'd see on syndicated shows back in the '70's or '80's.   But the biggest flaw is the narrator.  i get it--the show's based on his podcast and is his baby, but I have much different expectations for a podcast narrator compared to the narrator of what should be a high quality show.  It's folklore as read by the stereotype of an accountant.  Better narration would have done so much to elevate this show.  At only six episodes it's not a complete waste of time, but it is definitely not the Halloween spookiness I wanted.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tom Petty

So now it's official that we've lost another of rock's true great ones (while I know there were far more important things going on yesterday than the death of a musician,I could have done without the confusion on whether or not he had die).  I wouldn't consider myself that big of a fan, but with Petty it didn't matter.  For a large number of Americans, he was part of the soundtrack of our lives.  So many good songs and a surprising number of good videos for someone who was not video pretty.  And I would never have guessed Dylan would have outlived him as one of the most excellentTraveling Wilburys.  Maybe it was last night's confusion, but this is the song that was in my mind when I woke this morning.


And he got to be part of one of the greatest performances of all time.