Reviews by bpardue
All is Lost (also available in Blu-Ray) could also be subtitled "just when you think it can't get worse." Robert Redford's unnamed solo sailor is in full crisis-management mode after his sailboat is severely damaged by a collision with a drifting cargo container. He's a resourceful guy, and he systematically (and nearly wordlessly) goes through the process of doing what's necessary to manage the crisis. However, some crises just can't be managed. Pretty soon, it's just an all-out struggle to survive in the face of dwindling supplies, bad weather and even a few sharks. Despite having only one character and almost no speaking (apart from a few well-placed expletives and pleas), All is Lost holds your attention through its harrowing and (presumably) realistic depiction of being held hostage to the sea's whim. Frankly, I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did, but I was glad I watched.
Ralph Towner of the world-jazz group Oregon is perhaps the best known of these three guitarists (Towner, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan), but this ensemble is a true collaboration. While the more famous guitar trio of Mclaughlin/Di Meola/De Lucia displayed overwhelming speed and virtuosity, Towner/Muthspiel/Grigoryan keep things, for the most part, quietly lyrical, with plenty of space for things to breathe. Towner and Muthspiel split the compositional duties down the middle, and all three contribute equally to the sound. Despite being a guitar trio, there's plenty of sonic variation, with Towner's distinctive 12-string and classical stylings, Muthspiel's gentle electric guitar and Grigoryan's classical and baritone guitars. Standout tracks include "Duende" by Towner and "Die Blaue Stunde" (The Blue Hours) and "Nico and Mithra" by Muthspiel. This is a beautiful album that bears repeated listening.
In addition to being available on CD, this album is always available for borrowing from the hoopla digital library.
Has anyone changed a sport the way Bobby Orr changed hockey? With his end-to-end skating and puck handling, he redefined what a defenseman could be. I first learned of Orr when he was featured in a 1970 Boy's Life magazine cover story. I was immediately a fan, despite living at the Jersey shore (on the border between Rangers/Flyers territory) and not even being much of a hockey follower. I'd patiently wait for the Bruins to be shown on TV and listen at night on my transistor radio to WBZ to hear their games. I was ecstatic when they won the '72 Stanley Cup and crestfallen when they were beaten by the upstart Flyers in '74. Sure, I liked the team, but it was really all about Orr for me. He was the complete athletic package--skill and integrity rolled into one, just the kind of guy who should be on the cover of Boy's Life. 43 years later, Orr has finally (and after some reluctance) put out his autobiography, and it's just what an Orr fan wants--an overview of his life in Parry Sound, ON, some stories about his time in junior hockey and signing into the Bruins' minor league organization (he got $1,000 and his parents got their house stuccoed), all leading up to his stunning--but all-too-short--career with the Bruins and (in case you forgot), the Blackhawks. Orr mostly keeps things positive--he cites his role models and influences, and has high praise for his teammates. This isn't a tell-all book, although he does have a chapter set aside to cover his thoughts about his ill-fated relationship with his now-disgraced former agent, Alan Eagleson. Even there, he shoulders the blame, saying he didn't take enough responsibility for his own finances. Orr also has sage words for aspiring young hockey players and reflections on the current state of the game, including some suggested rule tweaks. Orr's writing is solid, and straightforward--his favorite phrase seems to be "and let me tell you..."--so the book is a quick read. If you're an Orr fan or a hockey fan in general, this is time well-spent.
Christopher Buckley's universe seems to be populated pretty much by conniving insiders with not much of a moral compass--which makes them very entertaining. In 2012's "They Eat Puppies, Don't They?," we meet Walter "Bird" McIntyre, a lobbyist (with a secret yearning to be a Tom Clancy-like novelist) who's been tasked by his defense contractor employers to create a U.S.-China conflict in order to justify the mind-boggling cost of a super-secret weapons project. He works with ultra-neocon Angel Templeton (of the Institute for Continuing Conflict) to start a rumor that Chinese agents are trying to assassinate the Dalai Lama. Pretty soon, US and Chinese officials are scrambling to get ahead of the story, and things start to spiral out of control. McIntyre's personal situation is complicated by the fact that his wife, Myndi, has just been made a member of the US Equestrian team--after great financial investment on Bird's part--and is looking forward to a major competition in China, the kind of thing that gets canceled when two nations ramp up the military rhetoric. The characters are colorful, the dialog snappy. It's a quick, entertaining read, and reminds me a bit of the work of Carl Hiaasen.
Bryson, having moved into an old English parsonage, goes goes through the house room by room and begins to wonder about just how domestic lives evolved into what they have become. In typical Bryson fashion, there's a lot of dry humor, saucy details and fascinating diversions. For example, a discussion about the dangers of the stairwell shifts into thoughts about many of the other things around the house that can kill us (and how dangerous paint and wallpaper once were). Thinking about the lawn leads to a brief history of gardens and public parks. If you're like me, and often go through a book in bits and pieces, rather than in a single multi-hour session, then At Home works well--its structure and parade of facts almost welcome occasional breaks.