Another Scintillating Online Interview From Yours Truly June 16, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
Tags: cut to wagstaff
add a comment
A while back, I did an interview with the Dan O’Brien Project which can be found here.
Mostly I talk about the Wagstaff novel, a little about some upcoming book releases, and some other stuff.
I’ll be getting on those other book projects now that I’m FINALLY settled into the spankin’ NEW chateau du Wagstaff and have gotten (somewhat) organized.
The kitchen is set up. The cat has explored and found some favorite spots instead of hiding most of the day (this was extremely important), and I’ve begun to organize the tons of books I originally shelved by size only. Art, science, graphic novels, cooking, music, movies, bible and all things JEW have been all sectioned very nicely! History, economics, politics, miscellany and all fiction still need a lot of sorting. But I’ll get there.
Today I fixed a leaking sprinkler head on my front lawn all my widdle self. I must be a real suburbanite now. Either that or I’ll be the reason Home Depot & Lowe’s stocks soar, considering how much crap I’ve been having to get from them lately.
I’m glad I made the move, however… as much as a chore as it was to pack up what seemed like an overwhelming amount of crap I’ve accumulated over the 18 years I spent at my last abode, I’ve got more space now, more privacy, and more peace & quiet, especially after chasing those kids off my lawn with my sawed off shot gun,
Well, not ALL the kids. Did I mention that all the girls in this area all look like budding porn stars? I must be in heaven!
But that’s a blog for another time.
Anyway, enjoy the interview! Here’s the link again!
Unpacking June 6, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in General.
add a comment
Perhaps I should give the home a name the way millionaires name their mansions. Perhaps I should cut to the chase and call it “You kids stay off my lawn or I’ll kill you all.”
I’ll be unpacking the TWO TONS of friggin’ boxes of books for the next few days & setting up the remainder of the place. So no Belmont Predictions this year. Considering how well I did on the Kentucky Derby, I’d be pretty useless anyway.
Movie reviews forthcoming… in the meantime, as they post on construction sites “Pardon My Dust,” although I usually post that as a sign on my schmeckel so the hooker can read something if she gets bored. Hiyo!
Yes, with high-larity like that, I’m sure you’ll be back for those movie blogs… and an eclectic mix it’ll be, unless you’ve always imagined Olsen & Johnson appearing in Star Trek.
Some Underrated Noirs May 5, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
Tags: charles mcgraw, classic film, crime movies, dick powell, film noir, john payne, phil karlson
add a comment
The Wagstaff DVR remains an ongoing treadmill of sorts, of films I record at odd hours and plow through whenever I get the chance… never empty, never full, merely a constant stream of stuff to review in various ways. I’ve been making an extra effort to whittle it down, however, since I won’t be able to take it with me when I move and switch TV providers.
I guess the ultimate pan is never to mention the stuff I give up on after a reel’s worth or so… and the ultimate positve review is to put together a blog post. So, a few weeks worth of material boils down to a bunch of fairy solid crime/noir efforts from yesteryear that I can pass along for those of you with creative Netflix queues.
I watched a pair of Phil Karlson/John Payne efforts from the early ’50s, Kansas City Confidential & 99 River Street, and both are well worthwhile B movie fun. In both, Payne (who started his career in musicals before moving on to hard boiled drama, much like Dick Powell) plays a guy needing to prove his innocence by tracking down the actual gangsters or psycho killers,and in both cases, he’s given some great cracklin’ tough guy dialogue and the plots have enough twists & turns to keep things moving along. Both films have bad guys who are fun since they’re actors in early roles (Preston Foster, Lee Van Cleef, Brad Dexter), femme fatales/good-bad girls like Coleen Gray or Evelyn Keyes, and the postwar fatalism we’ve come to love.
Speaking of Powell, I also watched Cry Danger, where he plays an ex-con out to find the guys who framed him, all photographed in beautiful downtown Los Angelels circa 1951. And it has William Conrad as the bad guy. I always like Powell as wise-cracking tough guy. His version of Marlowe from Murder, My Sweet I think comes closest to the character as written. In hid segment of one of my all time favorite films, The Bad & The Beautiful, he plays the sardonic college prof turned cynical screenwriter (a role after my own heart) beautifully. He’s fun in those ’30s musicals, but he’s really at home as the put upon tough guy in the noirs.
Finally, I caught the original version of a movie remade fairly well some years back, The Narrow Margin, where Charles McGraw’s tough cop has to escort the mob widow via train to testify while eluding her assassins. Pretty much the entire thing takes place within the confines of the train, where director Richard Fleisher in an early career effort shows off his resumé by zipping the camera up and down narrow corridors and keeping the tension super tight. The whole film is supertight at a mere 71 minutes – well acted, intricately staged, beautifully paced, and easily manages to overcome some of its hoker 1950s formula elements involving the damn kid. McGraw carries this picture throughout and made me wonder why he never became a bigger star – he’s flat out great in this.
So there you have it – 4 movies worth seeing, 5 maybe. I’ll save the comedies for another post.
Kentucky Derby Predictions 2013 May 2, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
Tags: Handicapping, Kentucky Derby, predictions
add a comment
It’s been crunch time for your humble Per-fesser lately… getting ready to move has meant signing my name to more documents than I ever thought I’d sign in my LIFE .
Well, except for the time I signed that pre-nup with Kim Jong-Un. We were going to be “The Odd Couple: The New Generation” next fall, but we tested poorly during pilot season. Alas, I’ll never be a sitcom star, I fear.
The idea of packing up Chez Wagstsaff’s numerous books & other chazerei has also been daunting… but thy will be done! A month or so from now I’ll be in new digs, with plenty of time off to acclimate the cat & get crackin’ on editing another book for publication as well as writing the next installment of the Professor Wagstaff mystery-thriller series.
EVEN WITH ALL THAT, I found the time to handicap this year’s Kentucky Derby. Let’s see if I can call the damn thing 2 years in a row, shall we?
I guess I’ll need Doug O’Neill to help me out on that one, since I picked his horse I’ll Have Another to win last year, and I’m going with him again this year. I think Goldencents has the best shot here. He’s flat-out faster than any horse in this huge field, his condition has been steadily improving has he moves up towards the length of this race, and I can easily see him reserving energy while keeping up just off the pace early on to burn up a late run and overtake the field. I think his current 5-1 odds will lower as we get closer to post time, and I would not be surprised at all if he became the post-time favorite.
My “B” group of possibilities, in order, are: Normandy Invasion, who at 12-1 is a nice bet & has the fastest stretch time of any horse in this race. If he’s near the front when they come into the homestretch and has an unblocked lane, look out. His form has been improving, and even though he lost to my next B pick, Verrazano, I think Normandy could outrun Verrazano this time. Verrazano has been impressive, however, winning every one of his races by comfortable margins while leading or near-leading throughout. I can’t really count him out of this one. I also would place Mylute in this B group – great speed, and a great combo with Napravnik in the driver’s seat.
My two “C” picks, each long shots to win the thing but horses I’d include in any exotic combo bets, are Java’s War & Revolutionary. They’re 15-1 and 10-1 respectively right now, but they’re nearly as fast as any of the entries in my B group, are in decent shape, and either one have the potential to be the “it was just their day!” type of horse, especially with Leparoux and Borel riding, respectively. Java’s War might be way on the outside, but that hasn’t stopped him before in a large field, and Borel always does amazing at Churchill.
Not sure what sorts of betting combos I’ll be going with, to be honest. It’s tempting to put Goldencents as the key winner to a superfecta or trifecta box with the rest, but I might have to sleep on that. A wuss exacta box of ‘em all might be one way to buy all my picks. Like I said at the outset of this post, between wrapping up the academic year & designing two new courses & moving & planning two novels, my head is spinning. I’m not sure if I’m clear enough to do anything other than a few $2 win bets, to be honest.
The answer, clearly, is: more red wine. I’ll have some film blogging up after a few more bottles, promise!
Because I Taste Like Chicken April 7, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in Cat Thoughts.
Tags: funny cats, siamese
add a comment
Click to enlarge
Tags: major league, New York Yankees, predictions, Sports
add a comment
Here are my fearless predictions for the upcoming baseball season which just kicked off with a Rangers/Astros game this evening. I kept forgetting that the Astros have migrated to the American League after 50+ years in the National. I miss those happenin’ 1970s psychadelic uniforms they wore well into the non-psychadelic ’80s. They’ve got a better look now, but they’re certainly at the bottom end of what’s generally considered to be this year’s possible contenders. The Houston team is a multiyear rebuilding project with a roster of mostly-unknowns and a new manager who is way younger than me. But more power to them all – I’d love to see a team build itself up from within with young players who then become stars together.
Kind of like the Yankees in the early to mid 1990s before they began an amazing run of post-season seasons that, as much as it pains me to say, is now over. My first prediction for 2013 baseball is that the Yankees will NOT be in contention for the first time since 1992 or so. It’s been interesting to watch various prognosticator shows on MLB or ESPN where the boys simply cannot bring themselves to count the Yankees out.
I can, and I’ve been a fan of that team for more than – Good GOD – 40 years.
Look how much talent the Angels had last year, and how despite all of it they could not recover from a horrible April by the end of the season, and sat on the sidelines in October. Now look at the injury-riddled aging Yankees, missing much of the meat of their line-up until mid May, with the Biogenesis shoe ready to drop on A-Rod and a possible money-saving salary-cap ducking contract voiding… the Yankees will struggle to get to .500 by June and will never recover in a hotly competitive AL East where it might only take 90 games to win, but I can’t see them getting there.
I can, however, see Baltimore getting there. Or maybe Tampa Bay. Or everyone’s favorite on paper, Toronto, who will probably do just fine, although I think they have last year’s Marlins and all their expensive signings looming over their shoulders. What I think will happen is that the Orioles will take the division, the Blue Jays will get one of the wild cards, and both the Yankees & Red Sox will battle not to be last.
The AL Central will be more fun because of who I think will be this year’s Cinderella team – The Kansas City Royals. Yeah, the Royals have sucked since the late ’80s, but they’ve put together a solid group of young players who had an amazingly impressive spring, and I think they are poised to be in 2013 what the Orioles were in 2012 and what the Nationals were in 2011 – the team-formerly-known-as-suck that’s clearly on the way up. I don’t think they’ll make the post season, but I think they’ll have wins in the high 80s and fall short of the Tigers, who I can see winning the division unless Justin Verlander breaks his schvantz with Kate Upton. The Royals will get back in the post-season in the next few years if they keep this up, though.
The AL West is an interesting mix – the Angels have a hitting line-up as good as the great slugging teams of all time, but beyond Jered Weaver very little pitching. The Rangers have lost a lot of talent but made some nice replacements and will certainly be competitive. And the A’s have some great pitching. All in all, I’d think the Angels & Rangers will be at the finish line, although I’m not sure which will win the division and which will be the other wild card.
Over in the NL East, it’s easy to pick the Washington Nationals – this time they’ve got more experience, they’ll have more Strasbourg, and they are loaded with good young talent. The Braves will compete as they always so, and fight with the Phillies for the wild card. The Marlins & Mets will fight for the cellar.
NL Central: I still like the Reds, who ought to go further in October this time. I think the Cardinals have run out of last-minute heroics and luck, and the Brewers will be the main challenge to the Reds, with a rejuvenated Pirates team playing spoiler, along the lines of the Royals in the AL. When the dust clears, I think the Reds take it.
NL West: The Dodgers went on a spending spree and put together a very impressive line-up, although they have some weak spots in their pitching staff and are vulnerable to injuries. Still, it’ll be them & their rival Giants fighting it out, and I think both of them will wind up in the post-season, with one winning the division and the other getting the wild card. The Diamondbacks will compete & play spoiler here.
I hope I’m wrong about the Yankees and that everything magically comes together, but I’m too much of a realist. I’m sure Pettite & Rivera will have wonderful farewell seasons. Having Gardner and Joba back ought to be a positive. Jeter ought to come back from his injury decently, but I worry about that after seeing him this spring. Texiera & Hughes remain injury prone and they’ll miss Granderson’s bat. I just don’t see it happening this year, and with most of that team aging, they’d better start beefing up the farm system the way they did in the early ’90s and patiently grow the core of a new Yankee team that could start its run in another 5-6 years or so. But I doubt it – it took nearly 10 years of suck & disappointment & (temporarily) taking the reins from Steinbrenner before the Yankees learned to patiently grow a team, and the successful run they had didn’t reinforce that lesson but probably undid it due to the way affluence breeds complacency. Bummer.
Welcome back, baseball… it’s been a long winter.
Power Popgasm: Redd Kross “Researching The Blues” March 4, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in Music.
Tags: Garage Rock, powerpop, Redd Kross
1 comment so far
These guys were lured out of retirement back in 2007 to play some club dates and came up with some new material that leaves oh so many other bands in the dust. Get it NOW!
No clunkers in the bunch here – one guitar-laden multilayered ’60s style garage rock earworm after another, with hooks and melodies evoking the best and most enjoyable candypop that the early Beatles or Cheap Trick ever came up with. I’d missed Redd Kross a lot since their last album, the excellent 1997 CD Show World – this one is less polished production-wise, but the songs are all winners. “Stay Away From Downtown” is the single, although other radio-worthy material (if radio was worthy of decent rock, outside of Rodney Bingenheimer & Little Steven Van Zandt) like the Byrds-esque “Dracula’s Daughter” or Weezer-esque “Winter Blues” is also quite catchy.
Up there with the aforementioned Show World and Third Eye as their best stuff. Highly recommended.
Oscar Predictions 2013 February 22, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
Tags: Academy Awards, Oscar, predictions
add a comment
Is everyone all set for the 3+ hour annual borefest known as OSCAR TIME???
I know I am! And this is a very special year for me, since I grew so disgusted with the overall moviegoing experience in the age of nonstop ads, audience members using cellphones, and the never-ending conveyor belt of drek emanating from the studios that I stayed away from the theaters all year. In these predictions, I’m totally flying blind – I haven’t seen any of these movies yet!
Oh, I will… eventually. In the privacy of my home, on my flatscreen, with kitty alongside. The only way to fly.
I actually got invited to attend the thing in person this year (long story), but I’d have to rent a tux and sit through the entirety of it (a) without eating and (b) without being able to vocalize any of the endless stream of snark, insults and flat-out derision that overwhelms me in every Oscar telecast. I must admit if the invite had also included the Governor’s Ball afterwards, I’d have gone, but for just the awards… Well, I thanked them immensely but passed.
Anyway, after reviewing movie descriptions, the buzz, the campaigns, and everything I know about motion picture academy behavior, here are my predictions for most of the awards and a little about the show:
Let’s start with the acting categories: These are fairly easy to call this year. Daniel Day-Lewis seems a shoe-in for Best Actor & Tommy Lee Jones a lock for Supporting Actor, both for Lincoln. I think Anne Hathaway will win the “we love your career trajectory lately” Best Supporting Actress for Les Mis even if the movie fell short of expectations. Best Actress has been strange the past few years, and I think the backlash against the politics of Zero Dark Thirty will sink Jessica Chastain’s odds and give it to Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook.
In writing, I think we’ll get one of those years where best script and best picture do NOT coincide. I think Lincoln will win adapted over Argo because they’ll want to reward Tony Kushner’s politics. And I think Amour will win Best Original because it’ll match up with my predicted win for it in Best Foreign Film as well.
Best Picture will go to Argo – it’s the easy favorite, and was helped immensely by the snub of Affleck for director. It’s also about filmmaking to some degree, something the Academy always loves. Without Affleck in the category, Ang Lee will win Best Director since they probably feel like they still owe him something from Brokeback Mountain losing out to the inferior Crash.
Life of Pi will also win a lot of tech awards – Cinematography, Sound Editing, Visual Effects… possibly even Musical Score.
Animated Feature? Wreck It Ralph
Seth MacFarlane? At least he was honest enough to admit that no matter what he does, the critics will savage him. He’ll get to sing, perhaps a show-tune type thing. Maybe he’ll even sing to Snow White at the Copacabana with a reanimated Merv Griffin. I’m sure there’ll be some suck-up political digs in his jokes, but one thing I’d like to see is him actually hit the thin-skinned Hollywood crowd with some joke, ANY joke, that makes them amazingly uncomfortable. He’s got the capability to do it, even if it’s on the immaturity level of the stuff on Family Guy. He’ll go up a lot of opinion points in my eyes if he makes some crack about Hollywood that makes some of ‘em absolutely cringe.
Please, God, ANYTHING to save us from the usual boredom of this thing.
And yes, Jack Klugman better make the memorial reel. And Ernest Borgnine too. Or there’ll be HELL to pay!!!
Call Me Mr. Helpful January 10, 2013Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, General, Writing.
Tags: comics, funny pages, newspapers
add a comment
The other day the Los Angeles Daily News asked for reader suggestions as to how they might retool their comics & puzzle pages in the coming year. So, I wrote them the following email, from which I’ve yet to get any sort of response:
You asked for it, you got it! With today’s football games getting boring, I’ll go ahead and give you my thoughts on your “streamlining” the comics pages for 2013.
For me, the strips that are mostly funny are Pearls Before Swine, and the collection of single-panel jobs which all seem to follow in the wake of the old Far Side weirdness, like F Minus, Brevity, Off The Mark, Rubes, Bizarro and Argyle Sweater. As long as any of those guys are batting .300 with good jokes, there’ll be something worth a laugh each day. Keep ‘em all.
I also make a point of reading specific comics in your paper for different reasons. For example, I’m fascinated by Funky Winkerbean. What started out decades ago as a silly comic centered around dorky high schoolers with jokes based largely on puns and high school marching band clichés has devolved into a maudlin soap opera complete with limbs lost in drunken car accidents, cancer deaths, frustrating career disappointments, parents with alzheimers, and the main character’s constant battles with alcoholism and his abject failure as a father. I’m hoping that Tom Batiuk continues to get more and more depressing and the strip will finally reach its inevitableRequiem For A Dream-type pinnacle in terms of the ways he’s been torturing his characters. In any case, I read that strip every single day, and every day I keep shaking my head. Whatever you do, keep running it. It’s not easy to be amazed, after all.