Thursday, September 28, 2006


Beastly Abodes: Homes for Birds, Bats, Butterflies & Other Backyard Wildlife (1995) by Bobbe Needham

Plans and advice for winter roosts, nestboxes, platforms, feeders, birdbaths, toad houses, and lots of other cool stuff.


The Backyard Birdhouse Book: Building Nestboxes and Creating Natural Habitats (1998) by Rene and Christyna M. Laubach

Lots of good information on birds, including some of my favorites like nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, owls, and woodpeckers.

Reminds us that the house sparrow is not a sparrow at all, but is instead a weaver finch.

Contains some interesting plans for birdhouses.

Offers some constructive advice on landscaping.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


His Best: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection (1997 release) by Howlin' Wolf

20 tracks, blues

In spite of all the incredible positive on line reviews, I failed to make a connection.

To me, mostly forgettable background music.

But I did note the influence on Eric Clapton.


The Elric Saga, Part 1 (1984) by Michael Moorcock

Contains 3 novels: Elric of Melnibone, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, and The Weird of the White Wolf

The tragic story of cursed, doomed Elric, one of my favorite anti-heroes.

Elric makes a series of bad decisions, mostly as a result of being manipulated by the forces of Chaos.

Elric kills his cousins, Yrkoon and Cymoril.

Elric and the demon-sword Stormbringer have a symbiotic relationship.

Some of the best sword and sorcery stories of all time, worth reading more than once.

Gung Ho

Gung Ho (1943)

Dramatization of the attack on Makin by the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.

A very young Robert Mitchum gets shot while attacking a Japanese machine gun, then later throws a knife to kill a Japanese soldier who is threatening an American medic.

Very preachy war propaganda film.

Randolph Scott is very good as the colonel.


Sunday Morning Quarterback: Going Deep on the Strategies, Myths, and Mayhem of Football (2004) by Phil Simms and Vic Carucci

A better title might have been "Phil Simms Tells a Few Anecdotes."

Poorly edited. For example, it should be "field goal" instead of "fielf goal."

Over hyped and overrated.

Simms purports to explain to us mere mortals how to watch pro football.

He lists a number of myths about football that are only valid when he uses them himself.

Barely worth reading, and definitely not worth buying.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

He Walked By Night

He Walked By Night (1948)

Film noir classic, no happy ending.

Richard Basehart is outstanding as an ex-Navy radio expert turned burglar/cop killer.

The chase scene in the sewers is similar to that in The Third Man.

Contender final

Very disappointing finish to the Contender season.

I had Steve Forbes from the very beginning, he lost a split decision to Grady Brewer.

There was no question in my mind that Brewer won the fight.

Forbes gave the fight away by refusing to fight his own fight.

Incomprehensible to me why boxers choose to lose by fighting someone else's fight.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dry stone enthusiasts

Very gushy article in the Milwaukee paper yesterday about dry stone walls. Very little usable information (typical treatment), but a good reference to the Dry Stone Conservancy.


The Secret War (1980) by Helene D. Adams

Spyglass: The Autobiography of Helene Deschamps Adams (1995)

"Deschamps Adams saved American fliers from capture and Jews from execution by the Nazis and played a role in secret preparations for Allied invasions of France."

"Using the code name Anick, she brazenly posed as a secretary at the Vichy headquarters of the Milice, the French equivalent of the Gestapo, and was able to steal the records of hundreds of people, including Jews, Resistance members and ordinary citizens who had been marked for death or deportation to concentration camps."

Quotes are from the obituary that appeared in today's Milwaukee paper.


Cavit 2005 Pinor Grigio

Light, crisp, clean, fruity, refreshing.

No real character, nothing special to recommend it.

No leftovers.


The Very Best of John Lee Hooker (1995 compilation)

16 tracks, blues

When compared with Etta James and Memphis Minnie, Hooker has better guitar but lesser vocals.

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer was my favorite.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Blue Angel

The Blue Angel (1979)

This book contains the novel by Heinrich Mann and the film (script and photos) by Josef von Sternberg.

The novel was originally published in German as Professor Unrat (1905).

A high school teacher's life is ruined when he meets a cabaret singer.

Interesting to note how very different the novel and film are. Just one example: the novel ends when he is arrested by the police, the film ends when he dies at his old school.

A cautionary tale on the bad things that can happen when a naive person falls in with rogues.

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet (1956)

A typical Star Trek episode long before there was a Star Trek.

Robby the Robot was the star of the show.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shots fired in anger

Shots fired in anger: A rifleman's view of the war in the Pacific, 1942-1945, including the campaign on Guadalcanal and fighting with Merrill' Marauders in the jungles of Burma (revised and expanded 2nd edition, 1981) by John B. George

Fascinating first person account of two very difficult infantry campaigns.

A large part of the book is detailed analyses and comparisons of Japanese and American weapons and eqiuipment.

The author had complete disdain for the Japanese soldier. The author notes the Japanese preference for repeated suicidal frontal assaults that wasted manpower better used in the defense.

The author describes how the most formidable foes were the environmental ones: heat, humidity, mud, infection, disease.

Ghost Brigades

The Ghost Brigades (2006) by John Scalzi

The units of the title are cloned from the DNA of the dead.

Far from original military science fiction featuring dangerous aliens and a deranged traitor scientist.

None of the gushing reviews note the one really fatal flaw in this novel. The entire plot hinges on a super advanced computer system with no virus protection.

Barely worth reading.


The Adventures of Johnny Vermillion (2006) by Loren D. Estleman

Set in the Old Wild West of 1873.

A touring theater group robs banks while fending off a rival gang and the Pinkertons.

Very entertaining novel.

Memphis Minnie

Hoodoo Lady (1933-1937) by Memphis Minnie (1991 release)

20 tracks, blues

When Minnie sings about getting her ashes hauled, it sounds like something she might know a little bit about.

Her phrase "That's what I'm talking about" is still popular today.

Very impressive, worth listening to over and over again.

Night Walker

The Night Walker (1964)

A very odd murder mystery/horror film starring Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, and Lloyd Bochner.

Severed physical phone lines are a prominent plot element. How would this work with cell phones?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bradshaw on Favre

Terry Bradshaw, commenting on Brett Favre:

"Yes, he can still play physically. But mentally, I think he checked out three years ago."


After squandering a 13-0 lead and losing to the 'aints, the Green Bay team is considering changing their name to one that rhymes with Packers and correctly portrays their demeanor.



George Allen, in a fight for his political life in Virginia, insists that his use of the term "macaca" had no racist overtones.

I believe him.

Don't you?

Sunday, September 17, 2006


The First Great Train Robbery (1979)

Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland steal gold from a moving train.

Entertaining, worth seeing once, but in no way lives up to the hype as one of the great movies.

Donald Sutherland remains one of my favorite actors.

Friday, September 15, 2006


The Big Sleep (1978)

Remake of the Bogart-Bacall film noir classic.

Set and filmed in London with an all-star cast (including Jimmy Stewart and Joan Collins).

Robert Mitchum as Raymond Chandler's private detective Phillip Marlowe.

Oliver Reed (always one of my favorites) is excellent as a gangster.

Richard Boone does a great job as a very creepy villain (a far cry from his role as Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel).


The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

One of the classics of the film noir genre.

A brilliant jewelry robbery goes horribly wrong.

Dark, cynical, paranoid, gritty.

No happy ending.

Sam Jaffe is superb as the criminal mastermind.

Marilyn Monroe has a minor role (it was early in her film career).

This Island Earth

This Island Earth (1955)

Grade B movie with no-name cast, but regarded as one of the classics of 1950s sci-fi.

Naming the cat Neutron because he is so positive was a nice touch.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf (1994)

An original anthology edited by Edward E. Kramer and Richard Gillian

With an introduction and new Elric tale by Michael Moorcock

This volume is a very fine collection of stories with one notable exception (see below).

One of the best is Karl Edward Wagner’s tale of when Elric met Kane.

Another is Tad Williams’ tale of when Elric and Jimi Hendrix joined forces to battle the Coprophage. OK, maybe it was the Chronophage.

Unfortunately, the collection is irreparably damaged by the inclusion of a story that is not even aboout Elric. This abomination is written by an unprincipled hack, a former insurance underwriter. It is the thinly veiled self-portrait of a mental dwarf. Incorporation of this pseudo-tale transmogrifies the book from an A+ to a D-.


Invaders from Mars (1953)

Grade B film with no-name cast, but still regarded as one of the sci-fi classics.

Documents how we are totally unprepared to defend ourselves from aliens, terrorists, or anyone else.

A cautionary tale for invaders: immediately kill the little boy, or you are going to regret it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Packers Jokes

Anyone who saw the 26-0 loss to the Bears, and who is not legally brain dead, recognizes that the Packers are jokes.

Q: How many Packers fans does it take to change a light bulb?

A: It only takes one to install the new bulb. The rest just stand around talking about how great the old one was.

The Packers are considering leaving Green Bay. They want to move to the Philippines and change their name to the Manilla Folders.


"Epidemiological investigation revealed a significant association between cholera infection and the consumption of uncooked beef. Increased risk of cholera infection was observed when the incriminated beef was kept at room temperature and consumed later without cooking."

-J Med Assoc Thai, 1992

Monday, September 11, 2006


My prediction is that the Packers will be the worst team in the NFL.

They have a real chance of being winless.

Bob Harlan, who acts as the owner, is the dumbest owner in the league. If his illness is the reason, he should step aside and give someone else a chance.

Ted Thompson is unqualified to be a GM in the NFL. Inept. Makes Ron Wolf look like a genius. Pathetic.

Mike McCarthy does not know how be a head coach. This is on the job training. He might be a good head coach someday, only time will tell.


Tony Stewart failed to make the Nextel Cup top ten, and is thus not going to be able to defend his championship.

Sometimes bad things happen to bad people.

Stewart is one of Nascar's dirtiest drivers.



The Trivium (2002) by Sister Miriam Joseph

Edited by Marguerite McGlinn

The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric

Understanding the Nature and Function of Language

I made a sincere attempt at this book. Dry beyond description. I was amazed bordering on stupification that someone could take fascinating topics and make them so uninteresting.

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity (1944)

Definitive film noir.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson are all superb.

No happy ending.

I have read reviews that claimed that MacMurray was out of his depth in this role. I completely disagree. He renders a perfect hard-boiled antihero performance.

Third Man

The Third Man (1949)

A classic of the film noir genre set in post-WWII Vienna.

Dark, cynical, no happy ending.

Military police investigate black market racketeers peddling defective medicine.

Features a very dapper Orson Welles. His physical decline between this film and Touch of Evil is absolutely shocking.

The soundtrack of zither music is literally maddening.


She (1886) by Henry Rider Haggard

The title character is Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Ayesha is a tragic character, for whom long life and great power are not sufficient.

She throws it all away in a fatal miscalculation.

This is still one of my favorite novels of all time.

However, like King Solomon's Mines, I think that a lot more could have been done with this. Maybe that is what makes them such great novels, they leave you feeling that you want more.


Hope and Desire (2005) by Susan Tedeschi

12 tracks, blues

Largely forgettable backround music.

In places, her voice sort of reminds me of Joplin. Janis, not Scott.

Lacks the authenticity of Etta James.


Gulliver's Travels (1975) by Jonathan Swift

Originally published in 1726, the version I read was "revised & slightly abridged for readers of our time."

It was intended as polical satire, but I did not make any connection with that aspect of it.

Weird and inventive.

Worth reading once for its historical significance as the oldest fantasy novel on Moorcock's 100 list.

I would not include it on my own 100 list.

Tolkien & Lewis

"...I had little time for the likes of Tolkien and Lewis, whom I regarded as bad popular children's authors whose moral attitudes were highly questionable..."

- Michel Moorcock, 1994

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Etta James

Blues to the Bone (2004) by Etta James

12 tracks, blues

When Etta James sings about how she has her mojo working, one gets the idea that this is something she knows more than a little about.

Very impressive.

Worth listening to over and over again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Lifespans of chipmunks

12 years (extreme old age; Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois)

8 years (captivity; Awesome Exotics)

8 years (Integrative and Comparative Biology)

5-6 years (males), 9 years (females; Wildlife Spirits)

5 years (average; Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation)

2-4 years, some up to 8 years (Discover Life in America)

2-4 years (Crestone Eagle newspaper)

2-3 years (Wellesley College)

2-3 years (average in wild; Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center)

2 years (Monteal Mirror newspaper)

1-2 years (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil (1958)

Restored to the vision of Orson Welles, and a very dark vision it was.

Bizarre blend of film noir and farce.

Cynical, paranoid, with no happy ending.

Orson Welles is superb as the corrupt policeman.

Marlene Dietrich has the best line of the movie when she tells the corpulent Orson Welles to lay off the candy bars.

Dennis Weaver plays a character who is legally brain dead (in other words, he plays himself).

Janet Leigh plays a character who makes Paris Hilton look like a street smart rocket scientist.

Zsa Zsa Gabor has a cameo.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


The Fortress of the Pearl (1989) by Michael Moorcock

Elric travels into a dreamscape to rescue a girl. He meets challenges that cannot be solved by the use of his demon sword Stormbringer.

A fine novel and an interesting change of pace in the Elric saga.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Blue Angel

The Blue Angel (1930)

The film that made Marlene Dietrich infamous.

A cautionary tale of sorts.

An interesting blend of film noir and farce.

Fantasy 100

Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988)

by James Cawthorn & Michael Moorcock

Gulliver’s Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift
The Castle of Otranto (1765) by Horace Walpole
Vathek (1786) by William Beckford
The Monk (1796) by Matthew Gregory Lewis
Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley
Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Robert Maturin
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe
A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens
Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte
Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melvillle
Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh (1864) by J. Sheridan LeFanu
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass (1871) by Lewis Carroll
Flatland (1884) by Edwin A. Abbott
She (1886) by Henry Rider Haggard
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Twilight of the Gods (1888) by Richard Garnett
The Story of the Glittering Plain (1891) by William Morris
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) by Oscar Wilde
Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker
The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James
The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) by G.K. Chesterton
The House on the Borderland (1908) by William Hope Hodgson
Black Magic (1909) by Marjorie Bowen
Zuleika Dobson (1911) by Max Beerbohm
A Princess of Mars (1911) byEdgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan of the Apes (1912) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Lost World (1912) by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Night Land (1912) by William Hope Hodgson
Herland (1915) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Citadel of Fear (1918) by Francis Stevens
A Voyage to Arcturus (1920) by David Lindsay
The Worm Ouroboros (1922) by E.R. Eddison
The Haunted Woman (1922) by David Lindsay
Lady Into Fox (1922) by David Garnett
A Man in the Zoo (1924) by David Garnett
The King of Elfland’s Daughter (1924) by Lord Dunsany
The Ship of Ishtar (1926) by Abraham Merritt
The Trial (1925) by Franz Kafka
The Castle (1926) by Franz Kafka
Witch Wood (1927) by John Buchan
War in Heaven (1930) by Charles Williams
Turnabout (1931) by Thorne Smith
The Night Life of the Gods (1931) by Thorne Smith
Dwellers in the Mirage (1932) by Abraham Merritt
Zothique (1932-1951) by Clark Ashton Smith
The Werewolf of Paris (1933) by Guy Endore
Lost Horizon (1933) by James Hilton
Northwest Smith (1933-1940) by Catherine L. Moore
Jirel of Joiry (1934-1939) by Catherine L. Moore
The Circus of Dr. Lao (1935) by Charles G. Finney
Land Under England (1935) by Joseph O’Neill
Conan the Conqueror (1935-1936) by Robert E. Howard
At the Mountains of Madness (1936) by H.P. Lovecraft
To Walk the Night (1937) by William Sloane
Roads (1938) by Seabury Quinn
The Once and Future King (1939-1977) by T.H. White
Slaves of Sleep (1939) by L. Ron Hubbard
Caravan for China (1939) by Frank R. Stuart
Fear (1940) by L. Ron Hubbard
Darker Than You Think (1940) by Jack Williamson
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1941) by H.P. Lovecraft
Land of Unreason (1941) by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp
Conjure Wife (1943) by Fritz Lieber
The Book of Ptath (1943) by A.E. van Vogt
The Dark World (1946) by Henry Kuttner
The Valley of the Flame (1946) by Henry Kuttner
Titus Groan (1946) by Mervyn Peake
Gormenghast (1950) by Mervyn Peake
Titus Alone (1959) by Mervyn Peake
The Exploits of Engelbrecht (1946) by Maurice Richardson
Mistress Masham’s Repose (1946) by T.H. White
Adept’s Gambit (1947) by Fritz Lieber
The Well of the Unicorn (1948) by Fletcher Pratt
You’re All Alone (1950) by Fritz Lieber
The Dying Earth (1950) by Jack Vance
The Devil in Velvet (1951) by John Dickson Carr
The Tritonian Ring (1951) by L. Sprague de Camp
Three Hearts and Three Lions (1953) by Poul Anderson
The Sword of Rhiannon (1953) by Leigh Brackett
The Broken Sword (1954) by Poul Anderson
The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Golden Strangers (1956) by Henry Treece
The Great Captains (1956) by Henry Treece
The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson
Stormbringer (1963) by Michael Moorcock
The Serpent (1963) by Jane Gaskell
Atlan (1965) by Jane Gaskell
The City (1966) by Jane Gaskell
Some Summer Lands (1977) by Jane Gaskell
The Crystal World (1964) by J.G. Ballard
Black Easter (1967) by James Blish
The Day After Judgement (1968) by James Blish
Rosemary’s Baby (1967) Ira Levin
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Green Man (1969) by Kingsley Amis
Neither the Sea nor the Sand (1969) by Gordon Honeycombe
The Philosopher’s Stone (1969) by Colin Wilson
The Pastel City (1971) by M. John Harrison
The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman (1972) by Angela Carter
Red Shift (1973) by Alan Garner
The Compleat Enchanter (1975) by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
The Alteration (1976) by Kingsley Amis
Our Lady of Darkness (1976) by Fritz Lieber
The Drawing of the Dark (1979) by Tim Powers
The Sending (1980) by Geoffrey Household
The Colour of Magic (1983) by Terry Pratchett
The Light Fantastic (1983) by Terry Pratchett
The Businessman: A Tale of Terror (1984) by Thomas Disch
Hawksmoor (1985) by Peter Ackroyd
Expecting Someone Taller (1987) by Tom Holt

There are 111 books on this list by my count. Shocking how few I have read.

24/111 seems like a poor percentage to me.


Vietnam: A Natural History (2006) by Eleanor Jane Sterling, Martha Maud Hurley, and Le Duc Minh

Weak effort.

Very disappointing.

The authors have a real knack for transmogrifying what should have been a fascinating subject into a dry, boring, flavorless ordeal.

Brain Wave

Brain Wave (1954) by Poul Anderson

One of the most highly regarded science fiction novels of all time.

What might happen if everyone and everything got smarter? If this vision of the future is any indication, a lot of bad things.

Out of the Past

Out of the Past (1947)

One of the classics of the film noir genre.

Jane Greer plays a character who is very handy with a handgun. If she had been with the Clantons, the history of the Old Wild West might be substantially different.