23 October 2010 to 1 January 2011

1 January 2011

Happy New Year!! We'll be back with a regular update next week.

Never, never, never, never give up.

- Winston Churchill

25 December 2010

Dudes! It's Christmas!! What are you doing here?? Rambles.NET will return in 2011. Meanwhile, if Christmas is something you celebrate ... have an amazing holiday!!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

- Santa Claus

18 December 2010

Don't forget to check out our Yuletide section for all your holiday music, book and movie needs!

On this date in 1271, Kublai Khan renamed his empire Yuan, officially marking the start of the Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia and China. In 1620, the Mayflower landed in present-day Plymouth, Mass., with 102 Pilgrims on board. Abel Tasman in 1642 was the first European to land in New Zealand. In 1777, the United States celebrated its first Thanksgiving, marking the recent victory by the Americans over General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga in October. A decade later, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Later found to be one of archeology's great hoaxes, the Piltdown Man was discovered on this date in 1912 by Charles Dawson. In 1932, the Chicago Bears defeated the Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in the first NFL Championship Game; because of a blizzard, the game was moved from Wrigley Field to the Chicago Stadium, with a field measuring only 80 yards in length.

There are 13 days remaining until the end of the year.

Don't look to other people's stories; live your own.

- Charles de Lint

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.

- Henry David Thoreau

A vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done.

- Terry Pratchett

• • • MUSIC

Al Rose is proud to present My First Posthumous Release. "The music on Al Rose's My First Posthumous Release covers a range of sound, sometimes folk or the blues, at other times country or bluegrass. And while there are unifying strands that run through the music, there are also thematic links that run through the songs," says Paul de Bruijn.

"And it is both sets of connections that makes the album as good as it is, when added to the skill of the musicians involved. Parts might take a bit to get used to, but once you are they are very good indeed."

Les Copeland offers a warning in blues: Don't Let the Devil In. "Judging from the photographs, Copeland is well into middle age, but Devil, the first recording of his to come my way, is also his debut for the respected Chicago-based blues label Earwig. It's not quite fair, however, to force-fit Copeland into one genre, since blues is not the only music going on here," Jerome Clark says.

"As a general principle Don't Let the Devil In is sound advice. All the same, you might let Devil -- the compact disc, not the evil entity -- into your music collection, where it will neither cause you harm nor soon wear out its welcome."

Guy Penrod urges his listeners to Breathe Deep. "Guy Penrod has been a presence in Nashville for decades, singing backup and harmonies on other people's records, backing up guests on TV shows and singing in gospel and Christian groups. Wanting to extend his range and scope, he has made this solo album, which takes him out of the strictly Christian field and into a genre we might call spiritual country," says Michael Scott Cain.

"In short, with Breathe Deep, Penrod has given us one of the best Christian/country albums of the year."


Kaitlin Hahn reports on Tunes Gu Leor, a featured presentation at Celtic Colours 2010. "It was another rainy autumn night in Cape Breton, but that didn't seem to bother anyone at Celtic Colours. There was barely an empty seat in the house in Wagmatcook! And there was no reason why there should be, because the lineup of this concert was a great one: Troy MacGillivray, the Nuala Kennedy Trio, Chris Stout and Catriona MacKay, and the Colin Grant Band," Kaitlin says.

"I'm really happy I chose this show as my first for this year's festival. ... It had great variety, and I was really impressed with how multitalented many of these artists are. It was a treat."


Connie Willis signals the All Clear with this sequel to Blackout. "All Clear is the satisfying, fascinating conclusion to this two-part story (which, according to Willis, is ONE book published in two volumes). Thankfully, all questions are answered and all storylines are resolved. (I would've lost my mind if they hadn't been!)" says Katie Knapp.

"These books were so engrossing, so good, it's going to be a while before I read anything else without saying, 'Eh, it's no Connie Willis.'"

Miles Corwin is feeling Kind of Blue. "Corwin also knows how to keep a narrative moving. As you get deeper into the novel, the plot complicates and the conflicts build and the tension keeps increasing," says Michael Scott Cain.

"It all leads to maybe a few too many climaxes, but if you like good, solid police procedurals, you won't mind. Kind of Blue will keep you guessing and involved."

Laura Lippman has a flash of recognition in I'd Know You Anywhere. "I was a latecomer to Laura Lippman's novelist career, but since discovering her I have read everything she has written, including her short story collections," Dave Sturm says.

"I put her among the heavyweights on the crime-fiction scene, including the current master, Michael Connelly. She is not a flashy prose stylist who deals in dark subjects (Gillian Flynn owns that turf), but a careful chronicler of ordinary people caught in dangerous situations. I think she creates the best female characters in the genre."


Tom Knapp prepares for the holiday with a selection of Christmas Classics from the Graphic Classics stable at Eureka ... although he laments the inclusion here of Charles Dickens' most popular tale, "A Christmas Carol."

"There are other, less familiar stories that could have filled the space more comfortably, as the rest of this collection shows," Tom says. "All in all, it's a fine addition to my Christmas library. Tom Pomplun, who steers the Graphic Classics ship and adapted several of the stories included here, keeps producing winners."

Tom finds genres conjoined in Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies. "Zombies, supplanting vampires in popularity these days, are cropping up everywhere. It's no surprise they are now appearing in Victorian London, always a ripe setting for creepy violence," he says.

"Shortcomings aside, I enjoyed the book. Unless you're a complete purist on the subject, you probably will, too."

Tom also confronts The Last Enemy in The Chronicles of Wormwood. "The Chronicles of Wormwood was irreverent and entertaining, At its root, it was thoughtful and well-plotted," he says.

"The Chronicles of Wormwood: The Last Enemy, the long-awaited sequel, is disappointing." (Zoom! That's Tom's 2,400th review for Rambles.NET!)


Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis and Heiko Ganzer address a modern plague in I am Your Disease: The Many Faces of Addiction. "Their book is about the disease of addiction, a big issue that kills. It is a shocking account of true stories that highlight drug use and death," Liana Metal says.

"Emphasis is drawn to the fact that those young drug-addicted kids can be found in people from all walks of life, showing that drug addiction is an everyday problem that makes no discrimination among people."


Elizabeth Barrial and D.H. Altair get deadly romantic in Vampires Don't Sleep Alone: Your Guide to Meeting, Dating & Seducing a Vampire. "Let's go with the supposition that vampires are real, and that the reality of vampires is closer to Anne Rice's Lestat and Stephanie Meyer's Edward than the more classic icons of Nosferatu and Dracula," Tom Knapp suggests.

"And let's suppose you're a teenage girl and, like, the coolest thing ever would be to have a vampire boyfriend to sweep you away in timeless passion and make you his eternal lifemate. If that's the case, than Vampires Don't Sleep Alone should be at the top of your must-read list."

• • • MOVIES

Daniel Jolley does the math and comes up with Jekyll+Hyde. "Jekyll+Hyde serves up a gritty, 21st-century reenvisioning of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel about good and evil. Despite a lot of avant-garde cinematography, some decent acting and a pretty kicking soundtrack, though, the film never quite makes it over the hump dividing the good from the mundane," he says.

"It doesn't help that the story has been done to death throughout the decades of cinematic history."

Dave Sturm recalls his first viewing of Blood Simple and remembers why he liked it so much. "From the opening scene, when the camera tracks down a saloon bar and floats up to get over a drunk slumped on the counter, I knew we were in for some fun. I won't bother explaining the plot except that it depends on the confusion and misunderstanding of four people tied together in a murder plot. Rarely have wrong conclusions proved so fatal," Dave says.

"The Coens are cinema's greatest geniuses of the sly wink."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

11 December 2010

Don't forget to check out our Yuletide section for all your holiday music, book and movie needs!

So, what happened on this date in history? Well, among other things, Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II was assassinated by his wife Theofano and her lover, the later Emperor John I Tzimiskes in 969. In 1282, Llywelyn the Last, the last native Prince of Wales, was killed at Cilmeri, near Builth Wells. In 1792, King Louis XVI of France was put on trial for treason by the National Convention. Indiana in 1816 became the 19th U.S. state and Lithuania in 1917 declared its independence from Russia. In 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States after the Americans declared war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor; the United States, in turn, declared war on Germany and Italy. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was established in 1946. And, in 1972, Apollo 17 was the sixth and final Apollo mission to land on the Moon. Oh, and lest we forget, Tiger Woods in 2009 announced an indefinite leave from professional golf to focus on his marriage.

There are 20 days remaining until the end of the year.

If enough people think of a thing and work hard enough at it, I guess it's pretty nearly bound to happen, wind and weather permitting.

- Laura Ingalls Wilder

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made.

- Oscar Wilde

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world
and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

- E.B. White

• • • MUSIC

West of Eden gets the party going with A Celtic Christmas. "The Vikings meet the Celts once again, but this time the invasion is musical as the Swedish group West of Eden teams up with a choir and an exceptional female vocalist from an old Irish Viking town to produce a masterpiece of Christmas music that could be enjoyed at any time," Nicky Rossiter says.

"I am very familiar with the output of West of Eden, having been a reviewing fan over the years. This time they manage to amaze me even more than usual with a fantastic change of style. The album is the result of a 2009 concert in Gothenburg."

Hans York is pleased to introduce you to Young Amelia. "The songs on Young Amelia fit neatly together, and while the songs feel like they could have been written decades ago, they are reminiscent of the better songs from the time. Hans York consistently creates beauty in the music and songs throughout this CD," says Paul de Bruijn.

"If I had to chose one reason to recommend Young Amelia it would be for the beauty of the music, though the lyrics aren't far behind."

For a taste or two of the blues, try Duke Robillard's Passport to the Blues and Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise by Joe Louis Walker's Blues Conspiracy. "Each a modern electric-guitar blues master, Duke Robillard and Joe Louis Walker have ridden the circuit for decades. At this juncture in their profession, the likelihood that they will emerge from the studios with less than consummately crafted recordings is close to zero," Jerome Clark announces.

"Not exactly a news flash, neither Passport to the Blues nor Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise disappoints. If you like what Robillard and Walker are doing, you'll like them. And if you haven't been paying much attention to the current blues scene, these two discs will serve as worthy introductions to two of its most compelling artists."

The Reggie Pittman & Loren Daniels Quartet take you from Point A to Point A with this new jazz release. "This is a well-recorded CD with a clean sound, with no electric instruments or incoherent noodling to mar the uncluttered vibe. It is a tribute to the golden ages of jazz, as when Daniels sings its praises on 'It's All Thelonious' in a lighthearted fashion," Dave Howell says.

"There is no funk, fusion, or rock here -- just a fresh viewpoint on straightforward jazz."


Tohn M. Borack digs into the life of a Beatle in John Lennon: Life is What Happens. "What we have here is a coffee-table book not so much about John Lennon as the John Lennon phenomenon. Organized chronologically, it covers Lennon from the beginning of the Beatles to his final days in the Dakota, relying on photographs and quotes not only from Lennon but from pretty much everyone on the planet," says Michael Scott Cain.

"In all, the book lives up to its subtitle; it is a collection of music, memories and memorabilia. By providing that, it serves an important function and is a whole lot of fun to leaf through. For me, it's a valuable reminder. For readers my daughter's age, it's a fine overview."


Don't despair, there's more to come from our eyes on the scene at Celtic Colours. Stay tuned!


Justin Cronin invites you to travel through The Passage. "Make no mistake, this engrossing, stirring and incredibly creative exercise is a pop-cultural landmark. Justin Cronin has created a world both terrifying because of the danger and compelling because you meet people you want to join on the ramparts. You want to share the book with others, but you will not give it away because you will want very much to read it a second time some day," Dave Sturm says.

"The last third of the book is as thrilling a reading experience I've had in a long time. Near the end, it is a heart-breaking experience to realize your time among these extraordinary people is finite."

Brian Keene takes his readers into a Dark Hollow of horror. "I've read Brian Keene's take on zombies, demons and humungous worms," Tom Knapp says. "He managed to really scare me, though, with an empty house in the woods."

The passage in question, Tom says, "shows that Keene, who has no qualms about using gross and shocking images to evoke a reaction, has a good handle too on the more basic, visceral elements of horror. This isn't just scary, it's disturbing."

Peter Straub sets a benchmark with Shadowland. "Straub's Shadowland is one of the pinnacles of the horror/fantasy genre, a symbolic, unsettling, expertly written journey into the country of magic, a coming-of-age story that surprises, enlightens and terrifies -- sometimes all at once," Jay Whelan says.

"Shadowland is essential reading for anyone interested in the horror/fantasy genre. I read it as a teenager, and as I've grown older it's gained more and more resonance with each successive reading; I have no doubt that it'll do the same for you."


Tom Knapp takes a fresh look at Vlad the Impaler. "The dark history of Vlad the Impaler -- the 15th-century Wallachian despot who would inspire Bram Stoker's famous vampire -- comes to colorful life in a graphic novel by comic-book stalwarts Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon," he explains.

"The art is simple, cartoony and drenched in red. The narrative packs a lot of information into the space. And, when Stoker's Count Dracula appears at the end as narrator of the tale, bemoaning his own relatively minor evil compared to his namesake's, you believe him. This was a really bad guy, y'all."

The Vlad story gets a new sheen in Impaler. "It is, perhaps, ironic, that the historical Vlad Dracula became notorious for impaling his victims on stakes. After all, his namesake, the vampire Dracula, can be killed by that very same technique," Tom says.

"In Impaler, a new graphic novel collection by William Harms, Vlad isn't the bad guy, he's the anti-heroic good guy, the man who commits acts of evil for good and noble reasons -- fighting vampires. And, although the story begins in Wallachia in 1460, it soon shifts its attention to modern-day New York City, where a drifting vessel in the harbor unleashes a new plague of vampires on the world. And guess who's been waiting in limbo all this time to do battle with evil once more?"


Lawrence Rodgers and Jerrold Hirsch have pulled together their findings on America's Folklorist: B.A. Botkin & American Culture. "B.A. Botkin, who died in 1975, was perhaps the best and most prominent folklorist America has produced. In fact, he is the man who gets the credit for making the study of folklore what it is today," says Michael Scott Cain.

"America's Folklorist is a fine work, bringing a fresh focus to a man who, even as his work continues to spread throughout our lives, is largely forgotten. It belongs in every college and university library but also deserves to find a wide readership among ordinary people -- the 'folk,' as it were."

• • • MOVIES

Daniel Jolley gets into the holiday spirit with a ride on Santa's Slay. "I don't know what it is about Christmas and horror, but it's amazing how the two fit together so well. I've enjoyed many a gruesome Christmas-based horror movie in my time, and Santa's Slay definitely makes my list of favorites," he says.

"With its great mix of murderous mayhem and comedy, Santa's Slay makes for a wickedly entertaining little movie. Some of the sleigh-flying scenes feature some of the worst special effects I've seen in a long time, but those brief moments really take nothing away from all of the things the movie does quite well. The entire cast is great, the funny lines in the script are actually funny and the pacing is spot on."

Dave Sturm pays a visit to The Emerald Forest. "The Emerald Forest movie supposedly sends an environmental message, and that's certainly true, but if you look closely it's really a fig leaf (like one of those little flaps on a string that constitute the sole bit of clothing worn by the villagers) for an updated Tarzan movie," he says.

"This movie is tremendous entertainment. It is exciting almost all the way through. And when it's slow, there are lots of cute teenage girls in the altogether to gaze at. In fact, there's a demographically striking abundance of teenage girls in this particular tribe."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

4 December 2010

On this date in 771, Charlemagne became ruler of the entire Frankish kingdom after the death of his brother, Austrasian King Carloman. In 1783, at Fraunces Tavern in New York City, U.S. General George Washington formally bid his officers farewell.

The first edition of The Observer, the world's first Sunday newspaper, was published in England on this date in 1791. In 1872, the American ship Mary Celeste was found drifting without its crew by the British brig Dei Gratia. In 1875, notorious New York City politician Boss Tweed escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, then Spain.

On this date in 1881, the first edition of the Los Angeles Times was published. In 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson set sail for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, becoming the first U.S. president to visit Europe while in office. In 1945, the U.S. Senate approved the United States' participation in the United Nations by a vote of 65 to 7.

There are 27 days remaining until the end of the year.

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.

- Janis Joplin

Avoid poetry, dramatic presentations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.

- Sydney Smith

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

- Mary Schmich

• • • MUSIC

The Molenes promise some Good Times Comin'. "Some records grow on me, the initial hint being that, on first hearing, I mutter an uncertain 'hmmm' as I reflect that I want or need to hear more. The Molenes' Good Times Comin' -- the group's third release, I learn -- did that to me. About the third time around, I had fallen in love," Jerome Clark says.

"In 10 cuts (plus a hidden 11th, a thoroughly entertaining instrumental jam) these four guys -- based in Boston -- perform in an entirely unaffected style that manages to conjure up just about every reason this listener once fell under the spell of rockabilly, twangy rock 'n' roll, and all those beats and howls that carried them out of the backwoods. Miraculously, there seems no artifice here whatever."

Mem Shannon is playing Live: A Night at Tipitina's. "Live: A Night at Tipitina's is about the music. Yes, there are moments when you can hear the audience, too, but that doesn't happen all that often. The music is very good, sometimes the blues, sometimes funk and at other times a bit of both," says Paul de Bruijn.

"Mem Shannon proves that while live is best, live recordings are the next best thing with this CD."

Michael C. Lewis takes a step back for Reflection. "This is a smooth jazz that has Michael C. Lewis both playing and singing on mostly original songs," Dave Howell remarks.

"The whole CD is very synthesized, even crediting two people just for programming. There is no bass player or drummer, only drum programming. This approach provides a nice wash of sound backing Lewis's horns, which in turn have a rounded, softer feel that fits in with the melodies. Backing his vocals, though, it tends to sound a little cheesy."


John Holenko gets folks ready for dancin' with the Contra Dance Encyclopedia. "It's not really an encyclopedia, as reference books go," Tom Knapp notes.

"But John Holenko's Contra Dance Encyclopedia is an excellent resource for the musician with either a casual interest in the style or a more serious desire to put together a contra dance band of his own."


Richard Kadrey introduces an assassin from Hell called Sandman Slim. "Jim Stark was just a young magician having a little fun in the world (picture a young John Constantine) when some pals craving power summon enough demons to pull him down to Hell. There, where he is the first living human among the damned, Stark stays alive by fighting gladiator-style in Hell's arena, fighting and killing an endless array of demonic warriors," Tom Knapp explains.

"Stark is tough, man, and he doesn't take guff from anyone any more. Consequently, Sandman Slim is gritty, fast-paced and very, very violent. Stark has a endless supply of demons, evil magicians, a headless porn-store owner, unfriendly angels and a gang of neo-Nazis to contend with -- to say nothing of a Frenchman cursed with immortality, a secretive doctor, the doctor's spidery assistant and Homeland Security."

Edward Aubry makes his writing debut with Static Mayhem. "Aubry does just about everything right in this book. The writing is crisp and technically very good, with very few editing errors. Despite going for 480 pages, slow spots are few, far between and brief. Word usage and phrasing are very good," Chris McCallister says.

"There is no predictability in this highly creative and original plot. You need to throw predictability out the window and be ready for anything while reading this book."

Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin find a Juggler in the Wind in the first book of The Wand Bearer. "A teenage boy lives with his mother in the small town of Buchanan, Kansas. He is clumsy, a bit socially awkward and withdrawn, but very bright and a dreamer. He also likes to build stages and props for the drama club," Chris says.

"Life is OK, albeit somewhat boring. Then the circus comes to town. You don't want to read about a boy running off with the circus to find adventure? Trust me: you might want to read this one."

Sienna Mercer continues the saga of My Sister the Vampire in book four, Vampalicious! "Written to be read by 8-12 year olds, this is a short and sweet age-appropriate read, and I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It had the potential to be a little hokey and too cutesy, and I was hoping for the best but expecting the worst," Cherise Everhard remarks.

"I would highly recommend this book to parents who are struggling to find both exciting and appropriate reading material for their young daughters. These two heroines are lovely."


Tom Knapp meets the new Batgirl in Batgirl Rising. "There's a new Bat in town, and it probably won't surprise many long-time readers that it's Stephanie Brown -- formerly the Spoiler, briefly Robin, Tim Drake's once (and future, I'm betting) love interest and, for a while, deceased," Tom says.

"Batgirl Rising introduces Stephanie to her new role, and it's a good, solid tale."

Mary Harvey takes a gander at Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button. "While it's true that the dysfunctional family theme is a very universal one, it's a gripping tale in Shaw's hands. It's the particular combination of artwork and writing that makes it so fascinating," Mary says.

"As young as he is, Shaw is a master at imparting volumes of information in small chunks. For all his experimenting with the form, though, he does not distract from the narrative, moving along at a fast clip like a slide show of sand-toned images, leaving the ending ambiguous but realistic and emotionally affecting. This is a beautiful piece of work on every level."


Jack Brubaker has tales to share in Remembering Lancaster County: Stories from Pennsylvania Dutch Country. "Every community should have a Jack Brubaker," Tom Knapp says.

"This slim book, part of the American Chronicles series from History Press, is not so much a history text as it is a collection of vignettes, each culled from seemingly trivial chapters in local history and first presented in Brubaker's newspaper column, 'The Scribbler.' ... Everything is told in Brubaker's relaxed narrative style, as suitable for an idle front-porch conversation among friends as it is for a newspaper column or book."

• • • MOVIES

Daniel Jolley has a little fun reviewing Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York. "If you love really bad, embarrassingly cliched, low-budget disaster movies, Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York is right up your alley," Dan says.

"Not only does it feature an increasingly ludicrous plot (with the obligatory reunion of the main character and his ex-wife) and plenty of uninspired acting, this film goes the extra mile of giving viewers what may well be the cheapest, most pathetically unconvincing special effects I've ever seen. It looks like they were doing the CGI on an old Commodore 64 or something."

Dan also casts a careful eye on Houdini: Unlocking the Mystery. "The great Harry Houdini set the gold standard for magicians and escape artists, and all practitioners of the magical arts will forever be compared with him. A master showman, he was truly the 20th century's first international superstar," he says.

"The documentary does offer some insight into the secrets of Houdini's legendary abilities, but the focus really lies squarely on the man rather than his unprecedented accomplishments, such as his uncanny knack for showmanship, his marketing genius, his love for his mother and his wife Bess, his incredible drive to outdo his growing number of competitors and his zeal for exposing fraudulent spiritualist mediums in the years following the death of his mother. If you have even the slightest interest in the life and legend of Harry Houdini, you're going to want to see this documentary."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

27 November 2010

Attention, American turkey gobblers!! Are you still full? I'm still full! Hip-hip-hooray for Thanksgiving goodness!

On this date in 1095, Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont. In 1295, the first elected representatives from Lancashire were called to Westminster by King Edward I to attend what later became known as the Model Parliament. The first Eddystone Lighthouse was destroyed in the Great Storm of 1703. In 1895, at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, setting aside his estate to establish the Nobel Prize after his death.

The U.S. Army War College was established on this day in 1901. In 1924, the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in New York City. In 1934, notorious bank robber Baby Face Nelson died in a shoot-out with the FBI. In 1971, the Soviet space program's Mars 2 orbiter released a descent module; although it malfunctioned and crashed, it was the first man-made object to reach the surface of Mars.

There are 34 days remaining until the end of the year.

There was magic in a forest, on a mountaintop or seashore; in the heart of a desert and, yes, even on a city street. There was beauty in humankind and the creatures with which they shared this world; and there was mystery, too.

- Charles de Lint

You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?

- Terry Pratchett

Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don't let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.

- R.I. Fitzhenry

• • • MUSIC

Mary MacGowan demonstrates a friendly way with music on Morning Glory. "Morning Glory is the sort of recording to which the adjective 'amiable' -- maybe 'quirky,' too -- is inescapably attached. It's the creation of a classically trained musician and published poet, Mary MacGowan, who in the middle ages of her life moved to the shore of a lake in northern Michigan," Jerome Clark says.

"It's well recorded and intelligently produced, the songs (all originals) set in folkish pop arrangements. They are clearly autobiographical, which would be a strike against them if MacGowan were not a self-aware, grown-up woman who does not appear to take herself overly seriously."

Chris Graham takes a gander at the After-Birth of Cool. "Vibes are pretty cool, and so is this CD. After-Birth of Cool is melodic and low-key," Dave Howell says.

"Graham has developed a technique for playing with five mallets, which helps him to bend notes and play chords. What stands out here, though, are his musical ideas. Everything is melodic."

Jamie O'Brien pays homage to the island sound with Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. III. "The series is hosted by George Kahumoku Jr., a 12-string guitar player, singer and songwriter par excellence. Naturally, he features prominently on this, the sixth collection from the series with a solo song and accompaniment on a couple of other tracks," Jamie says.

"Kahumoku is not only a tremendous performer, he is also one who is acutely aware of the traditions. As a result, he has always encouraged others to take up the music."


Kaitlin Hahn takes us back to Day 3 of the Festival Club at Celtic Colours. "On another cold, rainy night, it was nice to get into the Gaelic College's Hall of the Clans and stand by the fire while listening to some more fantastic music at the Festival Club, where there was another appreciative crowd," she says.

"Tonight, I have to put the spotlight on All Ireland harmonica player Brendan Power and multi-instrumentalist Tim Edey."


Julian Stockwin continues the saga of Tom Kydd in Tenacious. "Tenacious kicks an excellent series up to a much higher level," Tom Knapp says.

"There are great deeds here, high-water marks for the British navy in the Age of Sail, and Stockwin presents it all with a solid punch that will keep readers happily turning pages."

Laura Lippman knows What the Dead Know. "This about my 10th Laura Lippman book and I have to rank it up there with Every Secret Thing as among her best," Dave Sturm says.

"I admire the author for making demands of the reader. She not only shifts between six or more points of view, she moves back and forth through 30 years of time. In one chapter, it's not completely clear for pages whose point of view you are reading."

Tom Gauthier invites you along for Mead's Trek. "Anyone ready to read some World War II fiction? Would you like to focus on the Asian theatre instead of Europe? If so, Mead's Trek by Tom Gauthier should be on your list," Wil Owen says.

"I found the fight scenes throughout the book to be vivid and believable. I did think the story wrapped up a little too conveniently, however. While not all the good guys survive this tale, the last action sequence was a little too Hollywood, with its stroke of luck/divine intervention/what-have-you. But if that is the only fault I can find with the book, well then, what are you waiting for? Don't you have some reading to do?"


Max Brooks sketches the history of man's war against the undead in The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks. "From his Zombie Survival Guide, which instructs readers how to survive a zombie attack, to World War Z, which describes the zombie apocalypse, Brooks has treated zombies as a genuine threat to modern civilization. He takes the theme to a new level in The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, a graphic novel/history book that describes in some detail a series of, um, recorded attacks by zombies over the ages," Tom Knapp says.

"The book is a pleasure to read for zombie enthusiasts, although anyone who takes these things seriously (as Brooks himself would have you do) will no doubt be unsettled, if not downright terrorized, by the stories within. I mean, these zombies are relentless, man."

Tom also enjoys volume three of FreakAngels by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield. "This post-apocalyptic yarn takes place in Whitechapel, London, one of the last bastions of civilization. The FreakAngels, a group of young people born under mysterious circumstances and with special powers, are doing their best to save one small slice of the world -- in part through guilt for actually causing global devastation six years before," he explains.

"I've enjoyed this series to date, but this volume raises the bar for a lot more excitement and intrugue."


Paul F. Eno digs into the spooky in Footsteps in the Attic: More First-Hand Accounts of the Paranormal in New England. "I ripped through this book in a couple of sittings, and I literally could not put it down. Paul Eno offers up some fascinating and, what I would call, groundbreaking theories about what exactly ghosts are, and where a lot of those strange little occurrences we have come from," Lee Lukaszewicz says.

"His quantum mechanics approach may set any preconceived notion you have about why we see ghosts on its ear. Be prepared to consider a completely new perspective."


Jon Krakauer heads Into the Wild with a stirring tale. "Into the Wild tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who gave up a good life to live as a hermit and die of starvation in an abandoned bus in Alaska," Michael Gooch explains.

"The book is well written, with good pacing and just the right amount of tangents. This is highly recommended for those who enjoy well-versed nonfiction."

• • • MOVIES

Tom Knapp may be a lone voice in a wilderness of fanatics, but he's less than impressed with Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part I. "The material here is dark and heavy, with torture and shades of Nazism, but the actors still seem to be hiding giggles behind their sleeves, expecting at every turn another cute Potter moment or bit of magical wonder that defined earlier films in the series. But the chuckles and grins are hard to swallow when, for instance, a Hogwarts professor is tortured before our eyes before being killed and served to a massive pet snake for snacks," he says.

"I cannot get past the fact that 1) this movie doesn't stand on its own, relying on a knowledge of the book to get by, and 2) the witty, goofy scenes that have been a part of Harry Potter from the beginning no longer gel when placed side by side with scenes of terror and death."

Jay Whelan examines a music icon in Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back. "Don't Look Back is the best documentary about a musician on tour I've ever seen. I can't say enough good things about it, and it is all I can do to imagine how D.A. Pennebaker simultaneously made himself so ubiquitous and so unnoticed as to capture the remarkable footage that he got on Dylan's British tour," Jay says.

"The footage in this film is incredibly revealing. Never again would Dylan be so accessible, so honest and forthright, as he was in Don't Look Back."

Daniel Jolley sets off on a Laser Mission from 1989. "Given the tragic circumstances of his untimely death, not to mention the deep respect I have for his father, I feel sort of bad about denigrating one of Brandon Lee's films (albeit, one of his earliest efforts). Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that Laser Mission exists solely to be made fun of, as it's such a hilariously bad movie," Dan says.

"The plot barely holds the whole thing together, the acting is pretty weak all across the board, the dialogue is so cheesy that that the film should come with a warning label for lactose-intolerant viewers, the special effects don't exactly blow you away and even the music proves to be highly annoying. Obviously, I really have no choice but to give the film a low rating, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the heck out of watching it -- this thing is chock full of unintentional hilarity."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

20 November 2010

On this date in 1789, New Jersey became the first state to ratify the U.S. Bill of Rights. In 1820, a sperm whale attacked the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts, about 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America; Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick is inspired in part by the tale. In 1917, the Ukraine was declared a republic.

In 1945, trials began against 24 Nazi war criminals at the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg. On this date in 1947, the Princess Elizabeth married Lt. Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey in London. Today in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis ended when, in response to the Soviet Union agreeing to remove its missiles from Cuba, U.S. President John F. Kennedy ended his quarantine of the island nation.

The SETI Institute, a not-for-profit organization seeking evidence of extraterrestrial life, was founded on this date in 1984. Microsoft Windows 1.0 was released in 1985. In 1998, Zarya, the first module of the International Space Station was launched.

There are 41 days remaining until the end of the year.

Song writing is about getting the demon out of me. It's like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won't let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you're allowed to sleep.

- John Lennon

Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it. It would not leave them narrow-minded and bigoted.

- Henry David Thoreau

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

- Berthold Auerbach

• • • MUSIC

Ciaran Dorris is Home for the music. "The theme of emigration and hopes of going home shines through in so much of the folk genre, but Ciaran Dorris finds a wonderful new voice to express those dreams," Nicky Rossiter says.

"Ciaran Dorris is a talent to note, and I for one look forward to hearing much more of his songs of natural storytelling."

CJ Helekahi brings Ka Mahina from the windward side of Maui. "Helekahi comes from an old Hana family and on this album, Ka Mahina, he presents all the elements and emotions of the journey to his hometown. His tenor and falsetto vocals are rich and full, his strummed ukulele accompaniments are warm and steady and his choice of songs creates a moving tapestry that is deeply satisfying," says Jamie O'Brien.

"He's joined by a number of friends and often takes a back seat, allowing them to provide the instrumental work. Guitars, ukuleles, bass and synthesizer create sympathetic surroundings, never intruding but always interesting."

Jerome Clark examines a brace of new releases today: Peter Cooper's The Lloyd Green Album and Master Sessions by Eric Brace and Peter Cooper. "These discs could easily be encased in one jewelbox as a two-CD set, since the overlap in personnel is substantial The arrangements are similar, too, and the overall musical approach is largely indistinguishable," Jerome says.

"Hearing these gorgeous, soulful sounds won't kill you, of course, but it may leave you with the sensation that you've ascended to hillbilly heaven anyway."

Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes orchestrates The Bias Project, beginning with a 1960s-style homage to such greats as John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and Bill Evans. "Nunes is not only a composer, producer, bass player and a student of anthropology, but also an artist that does not limit himself to playing it safe," Ann Flynt says.

"On The Bias Project, Nunes shares the commonality we can have in loving music for its promise and universality."


Kaitlin Hahn shares the experience of Day 2 at the Festival Club, which closes each day at Celtic Colours. "While last night was a quiet one at the Festival Club, tonight it was packed! There was barely room to walk," she recalls.

"For the lucky people who did get in, the music was fantastic. My absolute favorite performance of the night was by the Nuala Kennedy Trio. They were so fun!"


Michael Connelly has nine, count them, Nine Dragons to contend with. "This is definitely one of the best Harry Bosch novels. Connelly swings the most gigantic red herring of all the red herrings he's every swung at readers in this outing. When you find out at the end how you've been schnookered, you will laugh. But you will also cry," Dave Sturm says.

"Michael the writer does a shocking thing halfway through the novel. An event happens that will bring tears to the eyes of those fans (like me) who have followed the Bosch story from the very beginning. Michael is merciless. I'm not sure I'm ready to forgive him. This is tragic. (Don't worry, readers, Harry's OK.)"

Linda Byler is just Running Around (& Such) in the first book of the Lizzie Searches for Love series. "When I was young, I truly enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic Little House series -- much more than the TV series loosely based upon it. From Laura's early days in the big woods to her married years with Almanzo, the simple stories about pioneer life kept me entranced. Nothing else in my library matched it," Tom Knapp relates.

"It's nice now to find a comparable storyteller in Linda Byler. While Byler doesn't have a pioneer heritage to relate, her Amish upbringing is grist for a very similar tale."

Ward Larsen takes this mystery to the skies in Fly By Wire. "The writing is crisp and fast-paced, despite a high level of setup information and a large cast of secondary characters. Jammer Davis comes off as a very real person, with strengths, weaknesses, quirks and a life outside of the storyline. Anna Sorenson, the CIA agent who does ," Chris McCallister says.

"Even as Ravel's great 'Bolero' is a magnificent crescendo, so this novel starts quiet, slow and rich in detail. It moves forward with an ever-increasing pace, riveting the reader to the story as the tension, the mystery and the intrigue build. I am a fairly prolific reader, but not a fast one; yet, I read the last 73 pages of this 302-page novel in one 90-minute sitting. I was totally absorbed by the end, and I loved how the surprises kept coming, all while fitting together very credibly."


Mary Harvey has middling praise for Asterios Polyp. "David Mazuchelli is well-known and respected as the artist behind the brilliant Batman: Year One and many other classics, but until recently he was an artist who had not yet produced a magnum opus that showed the full range of his particular genius. Along comes Asterios Polyp, a nine-year labor of love that shows what Mazuchelli really can do," she says.

"AP is a very, very promising beginning for an established genius. The techniques Mazuchelli employs are wonderful, but the construction of the story is so academic and precise that it's hard to empathize with the main characters. The emotional tone is constrained to the point of distancing the reader just enough to make it difficult to relate to Asterios and Hana as real people."

Tom Knapp peruses A Dummy's Guide to Danger for clues. "It's an unusual concept, I'll give you that," he says.

"A Dummy's Guide to Danger is your basic hard-boiled detective yarn. Except writer Jason M. Burns adds a twist, right from the start: private investigator Alan Sirois carries a ventriloquist's dummy on his back; he believes it to be his paraplegic partner who lost the use of his legs on an earlier caper. This of course leads to an entertaining progression of dialogue, when you recall that Sirois, at some subconscious level, is providing both sides of every conversation as they track down a serial killer."


Deena West Budd explores the world's bestiary of the unknown with The Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology. "Having been gravely disappointed with The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts by Raymond Buckland, I approached The Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology with some trepidation," Tom Knapp admits.

"Budd has swept my worries aside. Where Buckland approached his subject in a dry, seemingly random fashion, Budd tackles cryptozoology with zest. Her enthusiasm for the topic is refreshing, and it made reading this volume a pleasure."


Millie Knox delves into spirituality in Crafting with Nana: A Young Girl's Journey into Witchcraft. "Nana and Amethyst spend warm summer evenings by the light of a dancing fire, greet the sun every morning and bid it leave at the end of the day. They commune with nature as Amethyst learns to communicate with trees and birds and flowers," Lee Lukaszewicz says.

"In this tender and affectionate remembrance, Millie shares with us her magical summers with Nana. Each summer begins with Grapette and bologna sandwiches and ends with a wistful goodbye until next year. Crafting with Nana is heartwarming for young and old alike."

• • • MOVIES

Jay Whelan is off to sunny Brazil. "You know, it's strange sometimes what can stick in your memory where movies are concerned. For instance, whenever someone mentions Terry Gilliam's Brazil, the first thing that leaps to my mind is not the amazing story, the fantastic art direction, the great acting or Gilliam's impeccable direction -- no, it's that damned theme song, every time!" he says.

"Gilliam is juggling a lot of symbols, storylines, themes and characters around, and he doesn't drop a one. Then there is also Gilliam's brilliant eye for composition; every shot in Brazil is meaningful in one way or another and contributes to the film as a whole."

It's a Hospital Massacre when reviewer Daniel Jolley comes ambulating into the room. "Hospital Massacre is actually a pretty decent little horror movie, but we'll get to that. First, we have to talk about the film's star, Barbi Benton. Let's face it -- what with the crazy disco look and the remnants of unwashed hippie fashion floating around, there just weren't that many good-looking women around in the 1970s and very early '80s. Benton was one of the exceptions," he opines.

"Summing things up, it's clear that Hospital Massacre (also known as X-Ray, Ward 13 and Be My Valentine ... or Else) has a pretty good litany of things going for it: a reasonably tight story, a decent amount of blood and guts, and a naked Barbi Benton. If that's not enough to make you want to watch this film, you'd better just stick to your sensitive dramas like The Bridges of Madison County."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

13 November 2010

Be nice to someone today. Nov. 13 is World Kindness Day.

Rambles.NET reviewer Cherise Everhard is surely swooning, as Nov. 13 is the birthday of Glasgow hunk Gerard Butler.

In less thrilling news, today marks the date in 1002 when English king Aethelred II ordered the slaughter of all Danes in England, on what is known today as the St. Brice's Day massacre. In 1775, revolutionary forces under Col. Ethan Allen attacked Montreal, Quebec, which was strongly defended by British General Guy Carleton. In 1927, the Holland Tunnel opened to traffic as the first Hudson River vehicle tunnel linking New Jersey to New York City. (Don't look for another such tunnel any time soon.)

On this date in 1942, U.S. and Japanese ships engaged in an intense, close-quarters surface naval engagement during the Battle of Guadalcanal. In 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court declared laws in Alabama requiring segregated buses illegal, thus ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1971, the American space probe Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to successfully orbit another planet, swinging into its planned trajectory around Mars. In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.

In 1985, the volcano Nevado del Ruiz erupted and melted a glacier, causing a volcanic mudslide that buried Armero, Colombia, killing about 23,000 people.

There are 48 days remaining until the end of the year.

Song writing is about getting the demon out of me. It's like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won't let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you're allowed to sleep.

- John Lennon

Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it. It would not leave them narrow-minded and bigoted.

- Henry David Thoreau

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

- Berthold Auerbach

• • • MUSIC

Glenna Bell misses the mark with Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love & Murder. "There are several good songs here, but when there are only eight cuts, there is no affording misfires," Jerome Clark says.

"Even with her idiosyncratic approach Bell can't get leaves to sprout on the dead wood of 'Frankie & Johnny.' What's missing here is less an innate talent than a better focus and a broader canvas. And maybe a classical education."

Eden Brent makes her sophomore appearance with Ain't Got No Troubles. "I count Eden Brent's Mississippi Number One, which I reviewed here on 3 May 2008, among my most treasured CDs. It's one of those discs I turn to whenever I'm seeking balm, enlightenment and joy. In the months after its release, it won plaudits and awards, and it deserved them all," Jerome says.

"For a truly soulful artist, heart, brain and ear are in harmony and able to fashion an aura of blissful authenticity. Brent's uncomplicated lyrics are devoted to the elemental experiences -- romance, sex, betrayal, break-up, heartache and good times -- that are the stuff of both popular music and ordinary life. No politics, no larger meanings, no philosophical musings, in short, but still, big enough."

Harvie S is crossing Cocolamus Bridge. "Harvie S has been around a long time, with a biography that includes work with many major jazz stars. But on this, his 13th disc as a leader, he does not show any sign of losing his creativity or freshness on eight varied tracks of five-and-a-half to eight minutes each," Dave Howell says.

"This CD does not fall into any standard jazz category, but instead stands out all over for its songwriting, production, playing and overall tastefulness."


Virginia MacIsaac was spotted dancing Close to the Floor at Celtic Colours this year. "There was solid traditional Cape Breton stepping balanced with new musicians and dancers (new to me at least) and somehow it was still totally traditional," Virginia says.

"Lots of acts were packed into a short time and that sometimes left me wanting more, but mainly, it was a night full of music and dance that passed very quickly and very enjoyably."


Joe R. Lansdale lets loose a pack of wild Hyenas -- in the form of Hap and Leonard -- in this short, quirky book. "Hap and Leonard are fighting men, by which I mean they know how to throw a punch and, perhaps more importantly, take a punch, and they seem to work very hard at being in situations where there's punching going on. This book begins in the aftermath of a brawl in which Leonard did a lot of punching and, while the reader isn't actually there for the action, it was one of the most amusing brawls I've ever been a party to," Tom Knapp says.

"But as violent as this story is, it's not the action that carries the story. Lansdale has a knack for dialogue, and the fast-paced repartee between Hap and Leonard is prime material. I'd love to know these guys, just so I could hear them talk."

Gillian Flynn visits Dark Places, which propels her "into the very front ranks of American crime-fiction writers," Dave Sturm remarks.

"Flynn's prose style deserves special attention as being marvelously effective. She is a master at showing the detail that brings the whole scene into focus. I found myself lingering on incredibly evocative sentences. I did not find a single cliche in this book. I cannot recall an American crime-fiction writer this dexterous with words and images."

Duane Swierczynski is making time with The Blonde. "I liked this blistering-paced pulp novel, and you will too if you can keep tongue firmly planted in cheek," Dave says.

"This is 100 percent calories, 0 percent nutrition. You shouldn't eat it every day, but once in a while is a treat."

David Almond enjoys a Raven Summer. "When a children's book kicks off with the line, 'It starts and ends with the knife,' you know you're not in for a typical reading experience. But then, David Almond is not a typical children's author," Jay Whelan says.

"One of the things Almond does extremely well in this book is to juxtapose art and life, and how they reflect one another, and how alienated both can become from what is real -- and ultimately, how subjective the very idea of 'reality' is."


Tom Knapp is surprised as all heck to find himself completely dissatisfied with Twilight, the seventh book in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Eight. "It's fitting, then, that this volume is titled Twilight. This book is as awful as sparkly vampires," he says, gnashing his teeth.

"This is a dreadful book, an unkind twist to what's been a damn fine series."

Tom also isn't thrilled with Batgirl: Redemption, which is another attempt by the stable at DC Comics to get readers to like Barbara Gordon's successor. "Cassandra Cain had her moments as Batgirl, but she never really seemed to fit in with the Bat crowd. Redemption, written by Adam Beechen, is a good example of the how the character went wrong," Tom says.

"There are some good appearances by various members of the Bat family, but Batgirl is the star of the book, and her appearances here are just not satisfying."


S.E. Schlosser is seeking ghosts in Spooky Pennsylvania. "Your fondness for Spooky Pennsylvania will depend largely on what you're looking for," Tom Knapp says.

"Schlosser's collection of ghost stories from the Keystone State is certainly entertaining reading, and Schlosser obviously enjoys sharing the tales. So if you're looking to spend a few hours reading enjoyable ghost stories -- and if you have an interest in the Pennsylvania locations where they take place -- you're sure to get your money's worth from this book. ... This book will not satisfy anyone with a more serious interest in Pennsylvania's ghostly lore, however."


Steven P. Unger is on the trail of terror with In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey & Travel Guide. "Unger provides, in exhaustive detail, a tourist's perspective on the places walked by Count Dracula, the world's most famous vampire created by Bram Stoker, and Prince Dracula, the Romanian tyrant whose cruelty inspired a monster," Tom Knapp says.

"If I were able to take a trip like this, Unger's Footsteps would be a vital resource. Anyone considering a visit to even one of these locations should read this book before going. And, for those of us who can't make the journey ourselves, I'm glad Unger has done it for us. Through his eyes, I've received a clear image of Dracula's world, and I thank him for the experience."

• • • MOVIES

Jay Whelan survives A Hard Day's Night and is here to tell the tale. "Rock 'n' roll movies are a mixed bag, to say the least. They range from the genius (Stop Making Sense) to the good (The Last Waltz), the dated but watchable (Monterey Pop), the contrived but watchable (The Girl Can't Help It), the noble failure (U2's Rattle & Hum), the ignoble failure (Tommy) and the truly execrable (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)," he says.

"Only a select few are true classics. A Hard Day's Night is one of them. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the classic rock movie."

Daniel Jolley, meanwhile, is spending too much time in The Attic. "After seeing this mesmerizing yet incredibly depressing film, I will forevermore count Carrie Snodgress among the world's greatest actresses," he says.

"The Attic is an incredibly good film, and I admire the courage of the writers and director to let the story play out on its own terms rather than slapping an ending on it designed purely to please the audience. While it may be portrayed as a horror film in some circles, this film is fundamentally a psychological drama, one that mines the darkest depths of human psychology with no restraints whatsoever. It has left me quite depressed, very sad and more than a little angry -- not at the film but at the whole situation in which the poor protagonist finds herself. It's an ultra-rare kind of feeling that few books -- and even fewer movies -- are capable of invoking in the reader or viewer."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

6 November 2010

Ladies, take charge!! Nov. 6 is Sadie Hawkins Day, an occasion when women and girls are encouraged to take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice for a date. (The tradition was created in the 1930s in Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip.)

On this date in 1528, shipwrecked Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca became the first known European to set foot in Texas. In 1789, Pope Pius VI appointed Father John Carroll as the first Catholic bishop in the United States. In 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected president of the Confederate States of America. In 1913, Mohandas Gandhi was arrested while leading a march of Indian miners in South Africa. In 1935, Parker Brothers acquired the forerunner patents from Elizabeth Magie for a little board game called Monopoly. In 1985, the American press revealed that U.S. President Ronald Reagan had authorized the shipment of arms to Iran.

There are 55 days remaining until the end of the year.

Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anyone who thinks humans are not capable of so fouling their own nest that the land and the waters can no longer be productive just hasn't been paying attention.

- Molly Ivins

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

- Kahlil Gibran

• • • MUSIC

Piano Red is revived through The Lost Atlanta Tapes, and two of our reviewers had opinions to share. "Anybody who hears The Lost Atlanta Tapes will be pleased they were found. Its 18 cuts carry the testimony of a man who heard it all, then gave it back in his own charming, distinctive style," Jerome Clark says.

Adds Michael Scott Cain, "My advice? Buy this CD. In fact, buy several. Give them out as Christmas presents. Musical experiences this good are rare; they need to be treasured."

Jerome also takes a look at a shiny pair of bluegrass releases: Between the Hollow & the High-Rise by the Kathy Kallick Band and Black Mountain Special by Rich in Tradition. "The new CDs by the Kathy Kallick Band (Kallick's 15th) and Rich in Tradition (its first) exemplify bluegrass' wide appeal and showcase its expansion across the national landscape. Kallick and companions hail from the Bay area of California, while Rich in Tradition holds down the old home place in North Carolina. Each performs the music with a distinctive accent, but both do something that is joyously, indisputably pure bluegrass," he says.

"Whether it's sprouting in new ground or old, bluegrass yet grows as colorfully and sturdily as a patch of wildwood flowers. The Kathy Kallick Band and Rich in Tradition are living evidence of how fertile the soil remains."

Dave Anderson and Mike Wingo share a few Conversations in jazz. "Conversations consists of standards performed by the unusual combination of Dave Anderson on piano and Mike Wingo on percussion," Dave Howell says.

"The duo are skilled musicians, but they create such a laid-back atmosphere, the songs blend into each other after a while. That is OK, though. This is a CD you can drift along and relax with."


Virginia MacIsaac was on hand for Two Fiddles, Two Pianos Encore, a highlight performance at the Celtic Colours International Festival. "Imagine a simple stage. A keyboard on the right and on the left, each angled in toward two empty chairs for the fiddlers. And then imagine a blonde firecracker zipping around the stage and a blue-shirted wizard casting spells with a bow. Yep! You guessed it. Natalie and Donnell were in Judique for a show!" Virginia says.

Besides Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, the performance featured Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, Mac Morin and Erin Leahy, Virginia says. "Over the course of the evening, there were many special moments, the show was friendly and fun, and the musicians provided a dazzling bunch of sets."


Joseph Strider discusses his role in a modern Native American music scene in where he's supposed to be, an interview by Tom Knapp. Strider, who has been nominated as "debut artist of the year" for the Native American Music Awards, to be announced next week, is getting in touch with his roots with the Lipan Apache tribe.

"I'm trying to write beauty. So I try to see things that are beautiful," he said. "We need to think in one consciousness, so we can help one another. If I can touch one person, that's good."


Ginger Garrett continues the Chronicles of the Scribe with In the Arms of Immortals. "This book is part historical novel, set in medieval Europe during the plague, part romance, with forbidden love, and part religious, with time-traveling angels and a thief who needs to learn a few lessons in morals," Wil Owen says.

"It starts out with more characters than you can easily keep up with. But don't worry. By the end of the novel, only two of the main characters will survive. Does that also make it part like a reality show where the participants slowly get whittled down?"

Cherie Priest unlocks the Wings to the Kingdom in this sequel to Eden Moore's story in Four & Twenty Blackbirds. "Eden's reputation for seeing ghosts has spread, and people seek out her assistance even though she can't control the ability the way they want. But when the honored dead of the Battle of Chickamauga, a major engagement in the Civil War, begin manifesting and silently pleading for help, she cannot resist getting involved," Tom Knapp says.

"I'd call Kingdom the superior book. Priest certainly stepped up her game between the first and second book. Not only is character development improved, but the story is richer and, dare I say, creepier. There are some real hair-raising scenes in this one. Well done."

Steven Levenkron casts a reflection of The Best Little Girl in the World. "After more than 30 years in print, The Best Little Girl in the World by author and psychotherapist Steven Levenkron remains one of the best books providing insight into the inner turmoil of the anorexic. There are many reasons why an eating disorder takes root, and while it is not possible to fit every case into a cookie-cutter mold, this fictional account of what could be considered a classic case of anorexia is very realistic in the way it illuminates the control issues, loathing and fear of intimacy and dependence that are most often the hallmarks of this debilitating disorder," Lee Lukaszewicz says.

"This is not a book of statistics and percentages. Levenkron, who is a specialist and leading expert in the field of eating disorders, draws upon years of experience to bring us the story of Francesca, a shy, self-conscious girl of 15 who has a depreciating lack of self-acceptance."


Tom Knapp gets his Klingon fix in Star Trek's Blood Will Tell. "Perspective makes all the difference," he says.

"Blood Will Tell looks back at several key encounters between the two great powers. And believe me, things look a little different from the Klingon point of view. The framework of this story is set immediately prior to the start of The Undiscovered Country and flashes back to key events during Kirk's original five-year mission. It's a hoot, let me tell you."

Jay Whelan casts his eye back to a Frank Miller classic, 1987's Ronin. "Ronin, at first glance, is a science-fiction/fantasy tale of magic, demons, masterless samurai, artificial intelligence and biotechnology ... but first glances, especially where Miller's work is concerned, can fool you. Once you learn to look past the surface (and the fact that there is anything beyond the surface is itself a major triumph in comic art), you find in Ronin a story of incredible richness and subtlety, full of wicked humor, three-dimensional characters and action scenes so intelligently, sensitively delineated they are breathtaking," he says.

"The story ends on such an uncertain, haunting note, it will stay with you for a long time to come."


Shelly Wu has prepared The Definitive Book of Chinese Astrology. "Shelly Wu has written several other books on the topic of Chinese astrology. In addition, she's appeared on national television and radio programs as well. She explains the system in a manner that is easily comprehendible to the Western mind. At least, to this one," says Becky Kyle.

"The book also comes with a handy CD that will help you chart your own Chinese horoscope. Unfortunately, the CD and my Mac are not compatible. That's my only complaint about the book, actually. Otherwise, this is an excellent and informative reference that I plan on keeping on my shelves and using."


Andrew Thompson answers that age-old question -- What Did We Use Before Toilet Paper? -- as well as a bunch more pesky ponderers. "The book is a fascinating collection of common questions and not-so-common answers, many of which will surprise you," Tom Knapp says.

"Now, some of Thompson's answers might have to be taken with a grain of salt. He cites no sources in the book, and many of his responses rely more on educated guesses than actual facts. Still, the book makes for an interesting read, whether you start on page one and read through to the end or you leave it by the toilet and read a few chapters during your idle moments."

• • • MOVIES

Daniel Jolley says Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is "absolutely horrible in just about every way imaginable. It is far and away the worst film in the entire series. I simply have nothing good to say about this film."

He adds, "The only way I can even stomach its existence is to theorize that Freddy vs. Jason might never have been made were it not for this cinematic atrocity. In other words, had this film not been such a flop at the box office (earning little more than $14 million), Paramount might never have sold the franchise to New Line Cinema, and I don't think we would ever have seen a battle royale between Jason and Freddy had the two slasher icons not been brought together under the same network."

Dave Sturm says Point Blank is "the quintessential Lee Marvin movie."

"Two lessons," Dave suggests. "Don't go near Angie Dickinson when she has a pool cue in her hand. And, if you shoot Lee Marvin, make damn sure he's dead."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

30 October 2010

Oct. 30 is, in some parts of the world, Devil's Night! It's a night for mischief, so be ye wary!! (It's also the night of Tom and Katie's Halloween party, so if you're in the area and would like to drop by....)

On this date in 1226, Tran Thu Do, head of the Tran clan of Vietnam, forced Ly Hue Tong, the last emperor of the Ly dynasty, to commit suicide. In 1270, the Eighth Crusade and siege of Tunis ended by an agreement between Charles I of Sicily (brother to King Louis IX of France, who had died months earlier) and the sultan of Tunis. In 1470, Henry VI of England returned to the English throne after Earl of Warwick defeated the Yorkists in battle. And, in 1485, King Henry VII of England was crowned.

On this date in 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia, escaped slave Nat Turner was captured and arrested for leading the bloodiest slave rebellion in United States history. In 1864, Helena, Montana was founded after four prospectors discover gold at "Last Chance Gulch." In 1905, Czar Nicholas II of Russia granted Russia's first constitution, creating a legislative assembly. And in 1918, the Ottoman Empire signed an armistice with the Allies, ending World War I in the Middle East. In 1922, Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy.

Orson Welles broadcast his radio play of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds on this date in 1938, causing anxiety among some members of his audience. In 1944, Anne Frank and sister Margot Frank were deported from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In 1945, Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in baseball. And in 1985, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off for its final successful mission.

There are 62 days remaining until the end of the year.

O horror! horror! horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee!

- William Shakespeare

There is but one step from the grotesque to the horrible.

- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Why does everyone run towards a blood-curdling scream? It's contrary to all sense.

- Terry Pratchett

• • • MUSIC

Kim Beggs follows up her Wanderer's Paean with Blue Bones. "On Blue Bones, her first CD for Steve Dawson's Vancouver-based roots label Black Hen Music, Beggs sings in front of a bigger band including electrical instruments (albeit not ones inclined to rock out), a departure from the bracing, starkly skeletal acoustic sound of Paean. Again, however, one hears that astonishing expressive little girl's voice -- though Beggs is hardly a child, either in calendar years or in hard life experience -- and senses that great open heart," Jerome Clark says.

"Few artists I hear these days cover other people's songs as movingly as Beggs does."

Ronnie Earl wants to Spread the Love with this new blues CD. "Ronnie Earl is among the best and most tasteful guitar players on the scene today. A master of dynamics, he knows when to wail and when to whisper, knows how to keep a basic blues quartet sounding interesting and different from track to track and howe to bring rock and jazz elements to his music without abandoning the essential qualities of the blues," explains Michael Scott Cain.

"Throughout a 35-year-long career that has taken him from sideman in a number of bands, most prominently Roomful of Blues, to bandleader, Earle has never stopped growing as an artist. This latest demonstration of that growth, Spread the Love, is a winner."

Kathryn Smith thinks jazz With Every Breath I Take. "Kathryn Smith interprets 11 standards here in a refined manner. There is not a lot of overt emotion in her singing, but with her understated style she manages to put a lot of subtle interpretation into the lyrics of her songs," Dave Howell says.

"This CD has a traditional approach, but the excellent production gives it a modern sound that should appeal to listeners of the Great American Songbook."


Kaitlin Hahn gives us opening night at the Festival Club at the Celtic Colours International Festival. "It was a quiet, somewhat intimate night, as it typically is on opening night, but the music was fantastic, as always," she says.

"The highlight for me on this night was The Outside Track. New to the festival this year, they did a brilliant job of introducing their style to the listeners."


Melissa de la Cruz recounts The Van Allen Legacy in volume four of The Blue Bloods. "The Blue Bloods series ... is described as a vampire soap opera, and I wouldn't dispute the title at all," Becky Kyle remarks.

"The story's fast-paced and rich in locale. I suspect with as much going on, this young-adult series will be continuing for many books to come."

Evie Wyld sets her tale in Australia in After the Fire, a Still Small Voice. "When I first saw the title, I immediately thought about the massive wild fires north of Melbourne that were all over the news just a few years ago. The cover of the book even shows the outer edge of a massive fire in the Outback. But what this title is really referencing is the mental pain and anguish people sometimes go through for various reasons," Wil Owen says.

"I seriously have to wonder if I read it again, knowing what I finally knew at the end, I would appreciate the novel more."

Beverly Lewis digs into The Heritage of Lancaster County with The Shunning. "Beverly Lewis is not an author I expected to like, and I doubt I'm her target audience," Katie Knapp remarks.

"I finally had the opportunity to read one of her books, this one, and I absolutely loved it. Its gentle pace, and the sweet unfolding of Katie Lapp's story, charmed me from the first."


Tom Knapp spends little quality time with Warren Ellis in Frankenstein's Womb. "The story isn't great. Perhaps more development would have saved it, but it's very short and consequently feels rushed and incomplete," he says.

"Marek Oleksicki comes through with the art, however; his expressive, highly detailed black-and-white illustrations are very good indeed."

Tom returns to the Boneyard for volume three. "There's not a lot of action -- or even story -- in volume three of Richard Moore's Boneyard series," Tom says.

"Boneyard is a simple enough series, but I love it. It's fun and fresh and I want more."


Del Howison prepares for every contingency in When Werewolves Attack: A Field Guide to Dispatching Ravenous Flesh-Ripping Beasts. "Werewolf lore has always fascinated me. I can remember checking books on werewolves out of my elementary school library, writing reports on them and even penning letters to a favored author on the subject. Werewolves, to me, were just a little bit cooler than vampires," Tom Knapp says.

"Del Howison must love them, too. His new book, When Werewolves Attack: A Field Guide to Dispatching Ravenous Flesh-Ripping Beasts, provides a wealth of information on their background and various legends. Then, as the title makes obvious, he goes a step further, assumes they are real and provides tips for hunting them down and killing them."


Frances Hill deals with a deadly period of history in A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. "This comprehensive account of the Salem witch trials is concerned not only with the historical events, but also delves into the reasons behind what fueled the witch-hunt. The political forces at work are examined in detail, as well as the psychology behind what enabled this tragedy," says Lee Lukaszewicz.

"This is not your tourists' Salem. If you are interested in the real story behind the witchcraft fury, this well researched account recreates the Puritan experience in detail."

• • • MOVIES

Daniel Jolley gets into the Halloween spirit with Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary. "I'm going to do all I can to keep this undeservedly obscure film from being forgotten entirely. The film's main draw is, of course, Christina Ferrare in the role of Mary. I daresay you won't find a more elegant and beautiful vampire anywhere," he says.

"I like Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary for the same reasons some others dislike it -- the fact that it defies conventional vampire mythology. In a genre full of copycat scripts, this film stands out as unique. I think most true fans of the horror genre -- especially those with a sense of history -- will quite enjoy and appreciate Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary."

Dave Sturm, meanwhile, isn't entirely sure What Just Happened. "There's not much of a plot to Barry Levinson's Hollywood insider movie," he says.

"It's not The Player or even SOB, both of whom anyone who liked this movie should check out. It's just a snarky take that captures the absurdity of Hollywood."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)

23 October 2010

On this date in 42 BC, Mark Antony and Octavian decisively defeated Brutus's army at the Second Battle of Philippi, after which Brutus (Et tu?) committed suicide. In 425, 6-year-old Valentinian III became emperor of Rome. In 1295, the first treaty forming the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France against England was signed in Paris. The Battle of Edgehill, the first major battle of the First English Civil War, was fought on this date in 1642. In 1707, the first Parliament of Great Britain met.

On this date in 1915, between 25,000 and 33,000 women marched on Fifth Avenue, New York City, to advocate their right to vote. In 1917, Lenin called for the October Revolution. In 1929, after a steady decline in stock market prices since a peak in September, the New York Stock Exchange began to show signs of panic. In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly convened for the first time, meeting in an auditorium in Flushing, Queens, New York

In 1958, an underground earthquake trapped 174 miners in the No. 2 colliery at Springhill, Nova Scotia, the deepest coal mine in North America at the time. By Nov. 1, rescuers from around the world had dug out 100 of the victims, leaving the death toll at 74. On this date in 1983, the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut was hit by a truck bomb, killing 241 U.S. Marines. A French army barracks in Lebanon was hit that same morning, killing 58 troops. In 2001, Apple released the iPod.

There are 69 days remaining until the end of the year.

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

- H.G. Wells

Like the herd animals we are, we sniff warily at the strange one among us.

- Loren Eiseley

Everyone is criticizing and belittling the times. Yet I think that our times, like all times, are very good times if only we know what to do with them.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

• • • MUSIC

Bellowhead unleases a bit of Hedonism for the masses. "Bellowhead is an 11-piece English folk band that specializes in high-octane, full-blooded, life-affirming music. Formed by Jon Boden and John Spiers, Hedonism is the group's third studio album and it sounds like a group firmly in the ascendent," Sean Walsh says.

"With a range that takes in carnival, music-hall, real folk and everything in between, Bellowhead was described by the UK newspaper The Independent as 'surely the best live act in the country.' This reputation is apparent on the record, as the group -- which includes a full brass section as well as generous helpings of percussion -- take it to the max on almost every track."

A group of musicians goes on a historical bender with The Battle of Prestonpans 1745. "This compilation album is built around the Prestonpans Tapestry, a kind of modern-day Scottish Bayeaux. This product of a community initiative is thought to be the longest tapestry in the world, and after visiting a number of Scottish locations it will be launched for the world to see ... so watch out for it," Nicky Rossiter says.

"The album is composed of music and songs that will be played to accompany the exhibition, and as such it would greatly enhance the enjoyment of the product and the history it portrays."

Mollie O'Brien and Rich Moore celebrate the Saints & Sinners with this new CD. "It's been a decade since a CD with Mollie O'Brien's name gracing its cover (Things I Gave Away, Sugar Hill, 2000) elbowed its way into the world and to the listening devices of discerning music geeks. Consequently, Saints & Sinners, recorded in partnership with Rich Moore, was welcome in my house even before I had a chance to hear it," Jerome Clark says.

"Hearing it, of course, was better, and hearing it a number of times turns out -- no surprise -- to be better yet." Well done, Jerry, that's your 500th review!!

Robert Branch finds the Courage to Be in this recording of electric jazz guitar. "While there is some variation in effects and rhythm, most of the playing is at top speed," Dave Howell reports.

"There is a lot of energy here. As with many instrumental CDs, however, the tracks are so dominated by Branch's virtuosity everything tends to sound the same after a certain point. The intensity is not relaxed until the last song."


The Celtic Colours International Festival is over, but our coverage has just begun! Join Kaitlin Hahn this week at the Piano Summit, featuring Tracey Dares-MacNeil, Erin Leahy, Troy MacGillivray, Maybelle Chisolm McQueen, Mac Morin and Jason Roach.

"The piano is always known as the accompanying instrument in Cape Breton, so it was a treat to hear it as the melody instrument as well," Kaitlin Hahn reports from the scene. "Once again, this was a fabulous concert."


Vivian Vande Velde sets the tone for the season with All Hallows' Eve. "The protagonists here are mostly young adults themselves, but don't make the mistake of thinking their youth will keep them all safe from the author's fiendish imagination," Tom Knapp says.

"None of these stories will send you shrieking from the room or turn your hair white with fright. But they're creepy enough to leave readers unsettled, maybe a bit disturbed, all the while admiring the author's well-crafted plots."

Adrienne Barbeau truly believes that Love Bites. "Here's the deal: according to Adrienne Barbeau, who certainly knows her way around the movie and TV business, Hollywood is rife with vampires -- all of the leading movie stars are vampires; they photograph well and just light up the screen. Agents are werewolves and studio heads are just as often vampires themselves," Michael Scott Cain explains.

"This is the world Barbeau gives us in Love Bites, and it's a world you'll have a good time visiting. ... It's a quick read and a good one."

Daniel Kraus introduces The Monster Variations. "While this story is billed as horror, I would call The Monster Variations more of a coming-of-age tale," says Becky Kyle.

"Daniel Kraus is a gifted writer whose work evokes reviewer comparisons to people such as William Faulkner ... but I'd urge you to stop thinking of him as someone else, though, and just enjoy the story. The Monster Variations is a finely crafted debut novel."


Mary Harvey sits beneath a Low Moon with Jason. "Trying to describe the art of Norwegian artist Jason would require Newtonian skills with language. You'd have to create all new verbiage, just as Newton created a new system of math in order to explain yet another new system of math. There simply isn't anyone out there who can tap into the aesthetic of minimalism in such a unique, seemingly effortless way," Mary says.

"Low Moon, Jason's longest offering to date, is loaded with so much story in its well-trimmed, movieboard-like spaces that it's like nothing out there at all."

Tom Knapp is less impressed with The Professor's Daughter. "It's cute. It's quaint. It's even charming," he says.

"But I just can't warm up to The Professor's Daughter, a bit of whimsical fluff written by Joann Sfar (best known for The Little Vampire and The Rabbi's Cat) and illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert."


Raymond Buckland doesn't live up to his name with The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts: Apparitions, Spirits, Spectral Lights & Other Hauntings of History & Legend. "I had high hopes for this pocket-sized volume, which looks like the sort of thing one might take along on a real ghost-hunting expedition. The fact that Buckland, a top name in things occult, had written it only increased my expectations," Tom Knapp says.

"But the reality is far more disappointing. The text seems drawn from a scattered collection of notes, never gelling into a useful guide for believers or a persuasive argument for skeptics."


Max Jammer ponders the universe in Einstein & Religion: Physics & Theology. "I greatly enjoyed this book," exclaims Michael Gooch.

"Written in clear, concise language, Einstein & Religion is not a path of conversion to Einstein's concept of religion. The reader will not find a single sentence or word with a missionary intent. The book presents a philosophical and historical perspective without bias. That was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I got."

• • • MOVIES

Daniel Jolley spent an evening with Friends with Money. "I'll be honest -- I only watched this film because Jennifer Aniston is in it. Not surprisingly, I had a hard time relating to the film and figuring out how I felt about it," he says.

"We are talking about a modern, open-ended type of filmmaking here, and everyone will react differently to what they see on the screen. Some will hate it, some will relate to it particularly well and some may just go away with a sheepish look on their faces. I think I managed to do a little bit of all three."

Things go boom in Supernova. "Sure, you can find lots of little mistakes and problems with this story, and the special effects tend to be on the cheesy side, but I certainly enjoyed watching Supernova," Dan says.

"I don't really associate Hallmark Entertainment with disaster movies, but they certainly did a credible job with this one. Not surprisingly, there are a few overly melodramatic moments and one incredibly unnecessary subplot, but these family entertainment guys didn't shirk from blowing a lot of things up, including the Taj Mahal and a major American city."

You think we're done? Ha!! Come back for more next week. (Meanwhile, browse through our vast archives of past editions and find some good stuff you might have missed over the years. We have more than 10 years' worth of our work online for your perusal, totaling more than 13,000 reviews!)