Deadeye Dick

By Kurt Vonnegut
ISBN13: 978-0-38-533417-4

Publication Year: 1982

Tags: Absurd, Satire

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

As a child, Rudy Waltz acquires the nickname of “Deadeye Dick” for accidentally killing, through nearly impossible circumstances, a pregnant woman. He lives his life as a “neuter”, having no particular emotional attachments, not even to the part of his life lived in Haiti nor to his hometown of Midland City, Ohio, which during his absence is destroyed by a neutron bomb. The novel, like his life, is viewed through this detachment from empathy with the world. Continue reading “Deadeye Dick”

A Writer’s Book of Days

There are a great many books out there purporting to be wonderful tools or aids to writing. A frightening number aren’t particularly helpful for anything other than lightening one’s purse a bit. This one, however, I’ve found helpful for writers at many levels, from exercises and writing advice to tidbits for emotional and physical support. Allow me to introduce you to Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book of Days (ISBN 0-965-004136). Continue reading “A Writer’s Book of Days”

Tubular Bells 2

Mike Oldfield

TRACKS: 1—Sentinel; 2—Dark Star; 3—Clear Light; 4—Blue Saloon; 5—Sunjammer; 6—Red Dawn; 7—The Bell; 8—Weightless; 9—The Great Plain; 10—Sunset Door; 11—Tattoo; 12—Altered State; 13—Maya Gold; 14—Moonshine.

TAGS: Instrumental, Follow-up Album

RELEASE DATE: August 31, 1992

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

When this album first came out in 1992, I desperately wanted to like it. For one thing, the original Tubular Bells was pretty good. For another, the brain-dead trend-heads at Entertainment Weekly magazine panned the album, calling its sound “too new age”. Knowing as I do that EW is almost never right about anything, and that they rarely praise anything without being paid for it in one way or another, I was prepared to really enjoy this disc. I can still safely say that they’re dead wrong about one thing: The term “new age” has nothing whatsoever to do with this music. For the rest, however, I’m forced to admit that it really does stink. Continue reading “Tubular Bells 2”

The Internecine Project

(1974, PG) James Coburn (Prof. Robert Elliot), Lee Grant (Jean Robertson), Harry Andrews (Bert Parsons), Ian Hendry (Alex Hellman), Michael Jayston (David Baker), Christiane Kruger (Christina Larsson), Keenan Wynn (E. J. Farnsworth), Julian Glover (Arnold Pryce-Jones). Music: Roy Budd. Screenplay: Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn (based on “Internecine” by Mort W. Elkind). Director: Ken Hughes. 99 minutes.

Tags: Suspense, Thriller, Spy vs. Spy

Notable: New meaning to the phrase “Timing is everything”; reliance on low-tech gimmicks, for the most part

Rating: ★★★★☆

Robert Elliot (Coburn) is a renowned professor of economics who is about to be promoted to the highest chairmanship in the U.S. government policy-making committee. He is also a former corporate spy who must get rid of anyone or anything associated with his dark past. As the masters of intrigue would say, he must “clean up his network,” which means killing four people. He creates a perfect plan that some call the Circle of Death – in a single night, his former associates will kill each other, in a perfect circle of mutually assured destruction. Continue reading “The Internecine Project”

Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer, The

By Douglas C. Jones
ISBN: 0-684-14738-6

Publication Year: 1976

Tags: Historical Fiction, What-If, Native American, Military History

Rating: ★★★☆☆

George A. Custer, ranked as a General in the War Between the States but who was returned to the rank of Lt. Col. during his time commanding the 7th United States Cavalry, died at Little Big Horn. This what-if historical novel considers the question of Custer’s survival, and what a court-martial might find of the evidence presented to it of Custer’s actions that lead to a head-to-head battle of several hundred cavalrymen against several thousand Native Americans — or as they’re called in this book, with both historical accuracy and a conqueror’s prejudice, “Indians,” “renegades,” or “criminals who wouldn’t stay on the reservation”). Continue reading “Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer, The”

We Are Not Bemused

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,
“it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


Language is not a stagnant thing; it grows, changes, and evolves, as long as there are people around who still use it regularly enough to need it. Latin is called a “dead” language in that there are no new words being made. Sometimes, a language can be infiltrated by uses of certain words or inclusions of words from a language different from their own, creating what is called a patois or a vernacular. There are times, however, when language seems to undergo bits of mutation that serve only to wear down the value of the language itself. When these monstrous word-creatures take over a language sufficiently, we get what is termed a dialect. As Professor Henry Higgins notes in the musical My Fair Lady, “There even are places where English completely disappears; in America, they haven’t used it for years.” (The play on which the musical is based, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, was published in 1913.) Continue reading “We Are Not Bemused”

Songs Without Words

Dudley Moore (guest artist: Kenny G on “Brogan” and “Faithfully Yours”)

Tracks: 1—Six Weeks, Part 1; 2—Waltz for Suzy; 3—Patrick; 4—Thank You, Ilich; 5—Anemone; 6—Six Weeks, Part 2; 7—Brogan; 8—Faithfully Yours; 9—Skylarking; 10—Three Blonde Mice; 11—Satie; 12—Show Biz; 13—Theme in F Minor

Release Date: October 29, 1991

Tags: Instrumental, Light Jazz, Piano, Blissful

Rating: ★★★★★

I had originally reviewed this album in 1992, a year after it came out, and I still stand by what I wrote…

I read somewhere that his agent referred to Dudley Moore as “The Wee Wonder.” Moore, who didn’t quite come up to five and a half feet, proves that the most magnificent gifts do indeed come in small packages. With an acting range that ran from the comedic Crazy People and 10 to a brilliant romantic/dramatic role in Six Weeks, Moore was less known for his musicianship. His exceptional talent as a pianist won him a “co-starring” role with Sir Georg Solti in the documentary Orchestra! Whereas he previously had Victor Borge-like comic appearances on The Muppet Show and various talk shows, it took him until later in his life for him to be recognized for his musicianship. His film soundtrack work includes Staircase and Six Weeks, and this album is a tribute to a beautiful soul. Continue reading “Songs Without Words”


(1996, PG) John Travolta (George Malley), Kyra Sedgwick (Lace Pennamin), Forrest Whitaker (Nate Pope), Robert Duvall (Doc), Jeffrey DeMunn (Professor Ringold), Richard Kiley (Dr. Wellin), David Gallagher (Al), Ashley Buccille (Glory), Tony Genaro (Tito), Brent Spiner (Dr. Bob), Ellen Geer (Bonnie). Music: Thomas Newman. Screenplay: Gerald DiPego. Director: Jon Turteltaub. 123 minutes.

Tags: Uplifting, Love Story, Possibility

Notable: Brent Spiner cameo for comedic effect; Robert Duvall’s butt

Rating: ★★★★★

George Malley (Travolta) is a small-town simple guy – not stupid at all, just basic, direct, what a lot of people would call “ordinary.” On the night of his 37th birthday, he is suddenly struck by what seems like some sort of light from the night sky and is transformed into something beyond a genius. He no longer sleeps, reads several books every day, can absorb a language in minutes. He discovers that, as his gift grows, his old friends in town start to pull away from him; he becomes feared, isolated, and ostracized. The FBI, the colleges, the doctors, the intelligence services, the desperate, the angry, all target him in one way or another, trying to stop him from continuing or to get something from him. The one thing he knows is that the journey he’s on will not let him go, and that he must see it through to whatever end it may bring. Continue reading “Phenomenon”

Beyond the Boardwalk

By Rod McKuen
ISBN 13: 978-0-9103-9801-8

Publication Year: 1976

Tags: Poetry, Beat Poets, Lamentations

Rating: ★★★☆☆

My paperback copy of this book has McKuen’s autograph, from 1976, displayed in prominent Magic Marker (and dated) on the front cover. My friend, who was working for the now-defunct Waldenbooks chain, got the book and autograph for me when the poet toured; Russ knew that I’d been a fan since I first discovered McKuen’s work in 1968 (I was 10 at the time). I only recently re-discovered it – I had preserved it so carefully that it was lost in some of my older boxes.

This is the first of McKuen’s works (to my knowledge) to comment on his then-newfound fame in the Introduction. He observes, “If I sell five copies of a book, [critics] are unanimous in their praise. If I sell ten, I can expect one dissent. If the number grows to ten thousand, my reviewers will always be ‘mixed.’ At ten million, I have detractors of every persuasion, most notably those reviewers who read the statistics not the books. …I say again, the poem is me. I lived, or am living it. I accept no advice on how it could or should be lived.” (p.11 of this edition) Continue reading “Beyond the Boardwalk”

Why Write Furry?

“Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reason.”  —Robertson Davies

The genre of furry, or anthropomorphic, fiction deserves a few specific comments as to the how, why, what, and so on. I’ll start right at the beginning and answer the question on most writers’ (and readers’) minds: Why write furry? Continue reading “Why Write Furry?”