Sunday, September 13, 2009


For those of you unfamiliar with Aaron Elkins' books, he has written 15 featuring Gideon Oliver, also known as "The Skeleton Detective". Gideon solves mysteries using his forensic anthropology skills, often with the help of his wife Julie and/or his friend John Lau. Each book takes the reader to an interesting locale. "Uneasy Relations" takes place in Gibraltar, as Gideon stumbles into yet another sticky situation. How is the murder mystery solved? By looking at skeletons, of course! Elkins' books have enough scientific information in them to make them a lot more than fluff. The books tend to have substance, the dialogue is witty, and the stories are well-plotted. "Uneasy Relations" is simply another good entry in an excellent series. Being a big Elkins fan, I'd rate this one at 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Speaking of excellent, I am thoroughly enjoying the new Yo La Tengo release, "Popular Songs". YLT may be an acquired musical taste for many, but this listener believes they do little wrong. Like on their previous release (the wonderfully-titled "I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass"), YLT serves up all kinds of music. Some numbers are stark and minimally arranged, some are ambient, some contain elements of Motown, some have strings, some are uptempo and some are down. In the first nine trackes, the band veers from pop to rock to soul to other things altogether. The last three numbers are 9, 11 and 15 minutes long and are more like background music than the first nine. I liked their previous CD a bit better, but this one is also good and continues their tradition of making creative sounds. I rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars, but that's just me. Nonetheless, this one was still in's top 100 bestsellers last I looked, so maybe I am not alone when it comes to YLT.
And speaking of creative... heh... Mrs. Snave and I went to see "Inglourious Basterds" yesterday. It was a very interesting movie. There were several scenes which seemed to last forever but were captivating due to their intensity. One involved a Nazi officer looking for Jews in the French countryside, and another was a barroom scene with undercover agents trying to avoid blowing their cover. The grand finale is "alternate history" of sorts, and probably represents a way in which many people around the world would have loved seeing the Third Reich come to an end. As with most Quentin Tarantion films, the violence is frequent and it is graphic. Leave your kids at home for this one. Also, following moments of seriousness there are sudden comic outbursts including silly graphics or in one instance, Brad Pitt trying to speak Italian in his Tennessee accent. I'd give it 3.5 or 4 stars out of 5.


Blogger J. Marquis said...

I saw the Basterds this week also. I like long movies but I felt like this one could have easily been cut by about 45 minutes. Way too much talking for an action movie.

The German "Jew Hunter" was very good. It was kind of fascinating how he was able to manipulate people into giving him the information he wanted...

11:57 AM  
Blogger T. Paine said...

You have me intrigued with your book review. Sounds like another author I will need to put in my long queue of books to read.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Paine, re. the Elkins books, the first one in the series is "The Dark Place", but I don't think it is as good as "Old Bones"; that was an early one in the series that I think makes a good place to start. "Icy Clutches" is also fun.

I agree with J., the "Basterds" could indeed have been shorter. I don't know if Tarantino was trying to pay homage to "spaghetti westerns" or what, but some of the music leaned that way, and then some of the seemingly-eternal shots of people's faces seemed to be in that vein too. Agreed about the villain, what an amazingly written and performed part... I think he did the best acting in the film.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

Snave - Thanks for the tips on Elkins and YLT. We saw "Basterds" in the past week or so, I loved it, if the actor who played the Jew hunter doesn't get a nomination for his performance there is no justice.

I am a fan of Quentin Tarantino movies and you say it was too long, well I could watch his films all day, he pays his respects to so many others movies within his own offerings. I thought "Basterds" had a touch of the Coen Brothers about it especially the opening scenes. I am an extremely biased fan.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

I saw Inglourious Basterds yesterday. I thought it was fairly good, although both my best friend and I noted it didn't have a big action sequence like you expect from a WWII movie. I have to agree with everyone else on actor Christoph Waltz. He was great as Hans Landa. I daresay he serves at least a nomination for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

In the late '70s there was a WWII movie with that same title (without the creative spelling). I assume this is a remake of the same movie. I'll check it out when it comes out on DVD.

Brad Pitt is really talented when it comes to accents. In "Snatch" (about 10 years ago) he does this really bizarre Northern England dialect.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Dave Splash said...

Love the new Yo La Tengo, as well. It is so great to see a band still peaking creatively after nearly 25 years in the game. I interviewed Ira Kaplan on my radio show a few years back, and he was a real nice guy. I'm seeing them on 10/9 for probably the 5th or 6th time - can't wait. Phenomenal live band.

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't really like "Basterds." I thought it was excessively long, and I hated the whole alternate reality ending (not that the result was bad, mind you). I'm not a huge Tarrantino fan, but I'm not a hater either. The guy obviously has talent. He needs to self edit a bit, if you ask me.

BTW, Snave, my radio show streams online of you ever want to check it out. I'm on Sunday nights from 9-11 pm Central time at

9:40 AM  

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