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 Amazon.com'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.