(2002, rated PG-13) Mel Gibson (Graham Hess), Joaquin Phoenix (Merrill Hess), Rory Culkin (Morgan Hess), Abigail Breslin (Bo Hess), Cherry Jones (Officer Paski), Ray Reddy (M. Night Shyamalan), Patricia Kalember (Colleen Hess). Music: James Newton Howard. Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan. Director: M. Night Shyamalan. 106 minutes.

Tags: Horror, Suspense, Kitsch, Stupid

Notable: Apart from indicating just how bad Shyamalan can be, not a helluva lot.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Well, there’s two hours of my life that I won’t get back.

Former minister Graham Hess (Gibson) wakes to find a 500-foot crop circle in his cornfield. As worldwide reports show similar, nearly identical crop circles all over the globe, people begin to fear that this is not a hoax, like the ones in the early 1980s; aliens really are here, and no one knows if they’re friendly or not. After sightings of ships and actual aliens, the world throws itself into panic, and they fear that the human race may be run. Hunkering down in his farm home with his brother Merrill (Phoenix) and two children (Culkin and Breslin), Hess must find a way to survive the possible “end times” without the power of his faith. Continue reading “Signs”

If God Wanted Us To Travel…

By David Brenner
ISBN 0-671-70113-4

Publication Year: 1990

Tags: Comedy

Rating: ★★★★☆

David Brenner (1936-2014) was one of America’s best-known and best-loved comedians in the 1970s-1990s. Considered a master of observational comedy, he was the forerunner of and influence upon Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and many others. This book is a collection of “outlandish tips and hilarious anecdotes” collected over decades of crisscrossing the U.S. on his many tours of his stand-up comedy. This is a book written by a guy who always remembered to “bring the funny”. Continue reading “If God Wanted Us To Travel…”

“Quid Quo Pro, Clarice…”

Even as the redoubtable Sir Anthony Hopkins oozed forth those lines as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (which was released in 1991… on Valentine’s Day, no less), I was surprised by how many people didn’t know quite what that bit of Latin meant. Although primarily used in legal circles these days (mostly for the purpose of confusing the layman), Latin pops up in everyday speech from time to time. When it doesn’t, I do my best to make it pop, mostly so that I can watch other people’s brains pop as well. Yes, I can be wicked. Allow me to introduce you to some of my favorite bits of Latin lingo, for your own edification and the astonishment of those around you. Continue reading ““Quid Quo Pro, Clarice…””

Dali: The Endless Enigma

Various Artists

Tracks: 1 — Tuna Fishing (Michael Stearns); 2 — The Great Masturbator (Michel Huygen); 3 — Shades of Night Descending (Walter Holland); 4 — Inventions of the Monsters (Djam Karet); 5 — Impressions of Africa (Loren Nerell); 6 — Face of Mae West (Klaus Schulze); 7 — Assumpta Corpuscularia Lapislazulina (Bo Tomlyn); 8 — Birth of Liquid Desires (Steve Roach and Robert Rich); 9 — The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (Steve Roach); 10 — Rhinocerotic Figure of Phidas’ “Illisos” (Steve Roach and Robert Rich)

Tags: Electronica, New Age, Meditative

Release Date: 1990

Rating: ★★★★☆

I found this recording a few years after its 1990 release. It’s a tribute to the life and works of surrealist artist Salvador Dali; the composers turned to Dali’s paintings for their inspiration, and these tracks are the result of that labor of love. Like Dali’s own work, this album is not for everyone. There will be times when you will have to suspend your prejudices about music in order to hear what the composer was working to achieve  —  and that goes for everyone from lovers of classical music to aficionados of grunge metal. There are sounds and musical experiences in the collection to challenge anyone of any taste, and if you’re lucky, you’ll come away with appreciation if not pleasure in the experience. (Happily, none of it is as grotesque and inaccessible as Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, which I’m loathe to inflict upon anyone.) Continue reading “Dali: The Endless Enigma”

Death Among Friends

(1975, not rated) Kate Reid (Det. Shirley Ridgeway), John Anderson (Capt. Lewis), A Martinez (Manny Reyes), Martin Balsam (Ham Russell Buckner), Jack Cassidy (Chico Donovan), Paul Henreid (Otto Schiller), Pamela Hensley (Connie Benson), William Smith (Sheldon Casey), Linda Day George (Dr. Lisa Manning), Denver Pyle (Morgan). Music: Jim Helms. Screenplay: Stanley Ralph Ross. Director: Paul Wendkos. 72 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Detective, Television Pilot

Notable: Starring role for Reid, in a television pilot, before her appearances in Dallas

Rating: ★★★★☆

Three men bilked millions from small investors; one had died in Paris, and now one is murdered on the estate of the third. How can a man be strangled, apparently in the middle of a tennis court, when the only set of footprints to be found anywhere are those of the victim? It’s up to Det. Shirley Ridgeway — “Mrs. R” — to interview a household full of suspects and sift the clues to catch a killer. Continue reading “Death Among Friends”

The Secret Sharer

By Joseph Conrad
ISBN: 042528509X

Publication Year: 1909

Tags: Classic, Seafaring

Rating: ★★★☆☆

An unseasoned sea captain, feeling a virtual stranger to his command and his crew, generously offers his hard-working crew a chance catch up on their sleep, taking the anchor watch of his own ship until after midnight. During that watch, he rescues a naked man who says that he has fled from the hold of a ship anchored nearby, where he has been held for accidentally killing a crewmate. The captain helps the man hide in his stateroom, where the man’s whispered story helps the captain find himself and his destiny. Continue reading “The Secret Sharer”

Stupidity in Wiki Form

Let’s start by explaining that “wiki” (WEE-kee) is actually Hawaiian in origin — a word meaning “quick” and usually in the form of wiki-wiki, meaning to go or do something quickly (“He’s hurt; bring bandages, wiki-wiki!”). Coined by programmer Ward Cunningham to describe a collaborative website or compendium for “quick” or “quickly-obtained” information, we now refer to any such compendium as a “wiki” (WIH-kee), the most famous being Wikipedia. On the plus side, anyone with information about a topic may contribute to the knowledge base; on the minus side, anyone who thinks they have information about a topic may have a wee into the knowledge pool at will. While Wikipedia does what it can to verify sources and police its own compendium, other wikis are reduced to self-parodying stupidity. The best example of this is an online abomination known as the Urban Dictionary. Continue reading “Stupidity in Wiki Form”

Seven Dreams

Gordon Jenkins
featuring his orchestra, Bill Lee (Dreamer), The Ralph Brewster Singers

Tracks: 1 — The Professor; 2 — The Conductor; 3 — The Caretaker; 4 — The Cocktail Party; 5 — The Pink Houseboat; 6 — The Nightmare; 7 — The Girl on the Rock

Tags: Musical, Program Music, Concept Album

Release Date: 1953

Rating: ★★★★★

This “musical for record album” features the experiences of the Dreamer (sung by Bill Lee) as he experiences each environment. We follow him through each dream, and every morning, he wakes to the raucous, jangling alarm ringing and the spoken, sing-song litany of, “Wake up, brush your teeth, wash your face, comb your hair, eat your breakfast, go to work…” until, with the last dream, he lets himself stay in the last, best dream. Continue reading “Seven Dreams”

To Die, To Sleep

(1994, Rated PG-13) Noah Hathaway (Phil), Paul Coufos (Dumar), Larry Gatlin (himself), Ami Dolenz (Kathy), Charles Napier (Father), Trish Davis (Mother), Nicole Fellous (Jan), Suzanne Alter (Sue), Vali Ashton (Counselor), Tom Pieper (Drug Dealer), George Thompson (Bartender). Music: Ralph Geddes and Michael G. Smith. Screenplay: Rick Filon (story by Kenneth Dalton and Rick Filon). Director: Brianne Murphy. 86 minutes.

Tags: Teen, Angst, Suicide, Avoid-At-All-Cost

Notable: The characters are so two-dimensional, most don’t even have names (Father, Mother, etc.), and the script is the same.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

A troubled teen — a rich kid who would rather have his parents than their money — begins to flirt with death as a way to ease his pain. He meets a roadie with a C&W band who offers his experience to help him choose a different course. Continue reading “To Die, To Sleep”

The Four Agreements

By Don Miguel Ruiz
ISBN: 0-965-046365

Publication Year: 1997

Tags: New Age, Philosophy

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I’m willing to admit that I may not “get” this volume simply because I don’t agree with several of the ways in which these Four Agreements are described. The basis of the concept has been described in many similar volumes over the years: This consciousness is not All There Is, and what we call “reality” is, in fact, a sort of unconscious agreement as to what is “real”. Ruiz refers to all this as a form of “domestication”, being changed from a “truly free person” into a sort of societal “pet”. This occurs, he says, because we learn and “agree” with all the things we’re taught, regardless of whether or not such “agreements” actually help us. This, Ruiz, explains, is our prison in which we live our lives, all the while imagining that we are “free” when we are in fact devoutly unhappy. Continue reading “The Four Agreements”