Thursday, July 29, 2010


James Lee Burke’s latest contribution to the Dave Robicheaux/Clete Purcell series, The Glass Rainbow, is largely a familiar romp across the swampy, over-fished storyline that fans of these books have come to love and expect. One gets comfortable with Dave and Clete, knows how they will react to each other. You know that one or both of the intrepid crusaders is going to be shot at (and most likely wounded), will chase despicable villains (both domestic and foreign), battle criminals and local law enforcement, experience betrayal, suffer hallucinations, and visit brutality in full measure on miscreants of every stripe. Both men will put their feet in their mouths. Clete is going to corner a bad guy in a bathroom and dunk his head in a toilet; he is going to bust someone up in anger and spend time cooling off in a jail cell. You just know it is going to happen. Burke’s writing, though, will carry along the reader, interspersed with short lectures on the history of Louisiana, evils of power and corruption, struggles of addiction, power of friendship, beauty of the bayou land, and resiliency of the people. Once you’ve become addicted to the travails of the Bobbsey twins from homicide, you know you are going to jump in the boat for the ride.

However, there was something a little more off than normal in this volume. While Burke is guilty frequently of repetition and unimaginative dialogue, he often counterbalances it with beautiful, detailed, colorful description and face-paced style. [And both people who actually read my reviews will recall my past complaints. J] But things got worse this time, almost as if the book didn’t have an editor to reign in Burke’s writing; as if Burke couldn’t recall what he wrote a day or two earlier. There is the familiar habit of giving different characters the exact same idiomatic language---one knows there will be the inevitable mention of piss (or spit) in someone’s mouth or a punch bowl, for instance, or someone will be brusquely requested to “get the [insert a variety of items, from grits to unmentionables] out of your mouth “. It isn’t so bad when it happens from book to book, because, well, they are the same characters and you expect a measure of consistency in their speech, but it happened several times too often in this book. Burke must have used “taken off the board” a half dozen times. He used the full name of the characters, nearly all of them, ad nauseum. He mentions certain facts repeatedly (such as Alafair’s rescue from the plane wreck). How many times did we have to hear mention of “the grotto that had been built as a shrine to the mother of Jesus,” in almost exact wording? I suppose that it may not bother most readers, and I might be overly sensitive to it, but it does bother me, and I think it takes away from Burke’s good passages.

Does this complain mean I will forgo reading the next installment, should there be one? Heck, no! Bring ‘em on!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Recent events have pointed out serious problems with modern media---or, more correctly, propagandists---and how people react to and use information on the net. The firing of Shirley Sherrod for allegedly making a statement seen as reversely discriminatory was unjust and knee-jerk; the original report that lead to her dismaissal was downright dishonest and inflammatory. Although I believe idiots such as Andrew Breitbart have a right to post opinion and rant anywhere they wish, they should be held accountable when purposely and premediatively issuing false information and altering media to inflame passions and adversely affect a person's private life. Especially someone whose record of helping people was considered rather sterling.

What makes all this even worse is that Breitbart admitted that he falsified his material (both in misidentifying her position at the time of the recalled incident, taking the sound bite clearly out of context to stain her reputation) in order to attack the NAACP, with no regard to the adverse effect it might have on Sherrod. He said he did so because the NAACP pointed out the rather obvious and blatant racism of some members of the Tea Party. Well, only the blind of heart (or racist individuals themselves) could fail to interpret many images held by Tea Partiers at their rallies as anything less than patently racist and offensive.

There really is no standard governing what passes as journalism and opinion today. Anyone---and I include myself---can say whatever they wish, pretty much, and get away with it. That FOX used Breitbart's blog to report on and condemn Sherrod, and others, is nothing new (Rush pioneered in that realm decades ago); I do not consider FOX reputable at all.

What also bothered me was how quickly mainstream media, the NAACP, and many individuals, all the way up the political chain, failed to ask questions and didn't allow Sherrod to truly defend herself. To their credit the WH, USDA, and NAACP quickly apologized for their too-quick judgements. Even FOX, or at least some commentators, reversed their criticism, except Breitbart. I hope he is banned from appearing on FOX programs, is sued heavily by Sherrod (isn't knowingly publishing false information liable?), and has a much-more-skeptical lens placed on every report he delivers in the future. He is a reactionary provoceteur---not a journalist---and should be treated and recognized as such. Even by FOX.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Some thoughts on recent movies, both at the theaters and on dvd:

Predators: Predictable; follows along the original story path. I enjoyed it, although it isn't great. Adrien Brody was ok, and It is wonderful to see another Braga on the big screen. Some of the characters and dialogue was weak. It could have been a bit more scary or intense.

From Paris With Love: Overall, not very satisfying. It was as if the writer or director couldn't dcide if it should be a comedy along the lines of a Jackie Chan farce or something like a Bourne Identity. Travolta simply was miscasat, adn the sidekick was weak. Some of the action was decent. The writign was terrible, not much better than a highschooler coul have done, as far as I am concerned.

Book of Eli: Although reviews were generally disappointing concerning this movie, I actually like it. I thought Denzel Washington did a credible job, Gary Oldman is always pretty good, and Mila Kunis was fairly good. Ray Stevenson was solid, and I didn't even realize that Oldman's wife in the film was Jennifer Beals. Kudos to the set designers and location planners (or whatever they call them). Some aspects of the film were weak, but overall, I guess because of my liking for postapocalyptic stuff, I enjoyed it.

The Messenger: Solid, sad movie. Woody Harrelson was excellent.

Edge of Darkness: This title easily applies to Mel Gibson's personal life right now. The movie was ok, nothing outstanding, but not bad. Gibson is an older detective whose daughter is killed in front of him and everyone assumes that he was the target, but he starts discovering that she had secrets and had tried to expose the darker, sinister inner workings of her weapons research company. Kind of Lethal Weapon meets Silkwood meets Sixth Sense.

Robin Hood: Pleasantly surprised by the modern version of the prestory, though it was sappy at times. The boys resisted going, but in the end they seemed to like it. I enjoyed Cate Blanchett's Marion. Most of the cast was decent, in fact.

Daybreakers: Vampires rule. . literally. Decent movie.

Things We Lost in the Fire: Halle Berry and Del Torio were very good. Depressing, slow film, but very good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The disintegration of a family is never easy to witness, and it seems even more disturbing when it is a Japanese family (well hinted at in the opening scene as a storm rolls in), because of the rigid need to maintain authority and keep up appearances. One of the benefits of watching foreign films is hopefully getting a glimpse into the workings of the world, and I was distrubed and interested by Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata (2008), as the viewer watchs a newly downsized middle-manager struggle to control his household and find employment commesurate with what he had once held. Although homelessness and unemployment are fairly well known in America, it somehow comes as a small shock when you see its portrayal in Japan. But several aspects of the film left me cold, and, even angry. The main character (played by Teruyuki Kagawa) is not a likeable fellow, and I don't think he was likable even before he lost his job. I certainly did not like the way he treated his wife, almost indifferently (one of the best and moving scenes is when she asks of help getting up from a couch, and yet her husband is so self-absorbed that he has already walked away), though she struggles to maintain a beautiful home and provide all the motherly responsibilities to him and their two sons. Taking into account some of the violence against his youngest son is partly a result of his emotional implosion from having to take demeaning (for him) employment (which I applauded actually, because he was willing to do it for his family, even if it hurt, rather than take an easier, more permananet, way out), he still does not seem one who could handle any threat to his authority. In fact, while not directly stated, I think he lost his job partly because he would not accept a downward position, which I know can be hard for anyone. His two sons both seem to have little real respect for him, want to get away from him. One decides to join the US military and the other attempts to play piano, despite dad's expressed refusal to alllow it on both counts. The younger one is especially bright and will fight against unchecked, overbearing authority, either by his teacher or father. The mother (played by a very lovely Kyoko Koizumi) is faithful and stalwart in keeping the family runnign along, even whne she knows her husband is lying to her. She maintains his authority and doesn't challenge him (can it truly be like that, or is she a weak character?), even when she could have blunted or even stopped him from certain of his decisions. The filmmaker, im think, tries to show that the father has redeeming qualities, such as his taking the poorer job, standing in handout lines, and givign back lost cash he has found, but it never really works, even the part in many western films where the father grudgingly acknowledges some special talent one of his offspring has exhibited. Basically, I just didn't like the guy. Even the piano teacher (Haruka Igawa), who should have been a more likeable character, just doesn't seem to pull it off. In the end, I enjoyed the movie for the most part, but I wouldn't place it in the highest rank. I wonder how my Japanese friends reacted to it, as I am sure there were cultural clues that simply went over my head.