Friday, January 25, 2019


Happy Friday Everybody! Check out my "Friday Flicks" column, on Phoenix Magazine online, this week featuring reviews of Joe Cornish's The Kid Who Would Be King...

...and Russell Mulcahy's In Like Flynn, based on Errol Flynn's 1937 memoir Beam Ends.

Yesterday after finishing my lunch, I cracked open my fortune cookie and fortune.

Now, I don't mean this in the annoying sense of too many modern fortune cookie fortunes: that they are advice rather than prophecy; a maxim or an aphorism instead of a prediction. No, what I found in my cookie was nothing at all, no slip of paper whatsoever with something written on it, however platitudinous. No fortune.

I am superstitious by lifelong habit of mind, and this didn't go over well with me. I crushed the empty cookie in my hand, took it outside and sprinkled the crumbs around a bush. I asked my server for another fortune cookie, was given one, and cracked it open. This time there was indeed a paper, and this is what it read: "A VIGOROUS HIKE AND FRESH AIR ARE JUST WHAT YOU NEED."

On the way to lunch, I had passed the "Hole in the Rock" in Papago Park...

...and reproved myself for not going there at lunch time to get at least a semblance of light exercise, instead of just stuffing my face. Now it appeared that the Fortune Cookie Gods were telling me the same thing: Get your ass outside and take a walk, or you have No Fortune.

So I stopped in Papago Park on the way back to The Day Gig, and trudged up and down the butte. Boy, am I out of shape.

RIP to Kaye Ballard, passed on at 93.

I had the good luck to see Ballard perform live once, in one of the strangest live shows I've ever seen, a tribute to Spike Jones at the lamented Sundome in Sun City; the bill also included Billy Barty, Adrienne Barbeau, and Buddy Ebsen, who recited the Gettysburg address, played the saxophone (throwing in a gibe at Bill Clinton) and danced offstage doing what he called "the shim-sham shimmy." Ballard, who had toured with Spike Jones early in her career, performed a flawless song-and-dance routine in tribute to Jimmy Durante, then finished by saying how much she had adored Durante, brandishing the cane she was using, and proclaiming "and this is his cane!"

The audience went wild.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Check out my reviews, online at Phoenix Magazine, of Nadine Labaki's unforgettable Capernaum as well as Don't Come Back From the Moon and Glass, along with a preview of the 3rd annual Chandler International Film Festival. Have a great weekend everybody!

Friday, January 11, 2019


Check out my review, on Phoenix Magazine online, of Stan & Ollie...

...starring the astounding Steve Coogan and the equally astounding John C. Reilly. Also, check out my review of the National Tour of Hello, Dolly!...

...playing through Sunday, January 13 at Gammage Auditorium.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


One more bit of 2018 business: As in years previous, Your Humble Narrator kept a list of the books I read this past year. So, for whoever might, for whatever earthly reason, be remotely interested, here it is:

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

How Town by Michael Nava

Scoundrel Time by Lillian Hellman

Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Happy Man by Eric C. Higgs

Two by John D. MacDonald

Dead Ringer by Arthur Lyons

Tales of French Love and Passion by Guy de Maupassant

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Mr. Bass’s Planetoid by Eleanor Cameron

The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! by Harry Harrison

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirahk

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton

Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston

So Move the Body by Carter Brown

The Master by Carter Brown

The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu

The Great Los Angeles Fire by Edward Stewart

Planet of Judgment by Joe Haldeman

Get Carter (aka Jack’s Return Home) by Ted Lewis

Elevation by Stephen King

The Informer by Liam O’Flaherty

End of Watch by Stephen King

Mistrustful as I am of contemporary literature, I was startled to notice that the three books I found most mind-blowing this year, The Three-Body Problem, The Man Who Spoke Snakish and The Corpse Walker, were all of 21st-Century vintage. I was also fascinated by Stephen King's Elevation. It's one of his odder tales, a strangely conceptual variation on The Incredible Shrinking Man; it's dedicated to the memory of Richard Matheson and the hero's name is Scott Carey. King calls it a novel, and for most authors it would be, though at 146 pages it seems like flash fiction by King standards.

I greatly enjoyed, though I'm not sure it comes together exactly the way King wants it to, and it has an almost Capra-esque sentimentality to it. But it has great heart, and there are passages that are thrilling, in particular a long chapter about a footrace; an effortless, economical tour de force.

As usual, this list does not include individual articles, reviews, essays, interviews, comic books, blogs, poems, fortune cookies, Facebook posts, warning labels, bathroom walls, etc. etc. that I read last year. Or very short books; I was, for instance, given Whose Boat is This Boat? (by [Our Current President], "by Accident")... a gift, read it, enjoyed it, and greatly appreciated that proceeds from its sale benefit hurricane victims. But I didn't list it, in no small part because I didn't wish to further disseminate the "author's" name.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Happy January everybody! Hope everybody had a great holiday.

Check out the January issue of Phoenix Magazine for my "Four Corners" column on Bar & Grille options around the Valley. Also check out my online column on the remarkable Polish movie Communion, playing at 4 p.m. Saturday at Harkins Shea, the Buster Keaton classic The General, playing Sunday afternoon at FilmBar, and my Top Ten List for 2018.

Here's wishing a Happy 2019 to us all!