Weekend by Kim Savage

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With Mark and Helena’s marriage on the ropes, Mrs. Lassiter plans the ultimate weekend to spice things up. To complicate matters, the guests include Mark’s new secretary/fling, Helena’s photographer “friend” Ken, Mark’s buddy Ben and his showgirl gal-pal Trixie, Helga the naive niece from Minnesota and Mae, the bitter drunk lesbian author. Sounds exciting, right? Well, unfortunately this is not a terribly interesting story. While it has its share of sleaze, the story lacks the pulp/crime intrigue that I usually enjoy in these books.

There is the typical share of character pairings and debauchery, but the only minor moment of tension comes during a brief barroom brawl when one of the girls get accosted by a couple of drunks. The only worthwhile moment for me was in the description of a “wash martini.” So, for this book’s excerpt I have included that page here:

His infectious grin calmed her. “All right, I suppose there’s some truth in what you say. So what do you want me to do, go downstairs and give a strip tease?”

His eyes swept her from head to toe. “Mightn’t be a bad idea, Mae. But no, nothing that radical’I just thought you might like to know that Mark is concocting Martinis. Wash Martinis, to be more specific.”

“Wash Martinis? What in blazes’?”

He nodded gravely. “Wash Martinis is what I said. A rather fiendish mixture brewed by our genial host. Fill the cocktail glass with dry Vermouth, pour it back into the bottle and re fill with good yellow gin. Add a twist of lemon peel’then duck before it hits you . . .”

She could not help smiling. “That I’ve got to see. Deal me in, will you?”

“Come on downstairs. The clans are gathered in the living room watching the performance.”

 She hesitated. “Look, Benton. Be a good sport and bring one up to me. I don’t feel much like facing the rest of the crew. You know, nerves and all that sort of thing. I’ve been a little on edge for most of the day and if I went down I’d probably do or say the wrong thing. How about it?”

 “Sure, Mae, I understand. Guess that’s what they call author’s license. Sorry you won’t come.”

 “Thanks . . .”

 “Tell you what, though. I’ll have a pitcher sent up, and then you can get stinking from drinking. Maybe. that’ll snap you out of it.” 

“It always does.”

Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim on PC (10/10)

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In terms of overall game-play, Skyrim stays pretty close to the system Oblivion used. You roam a giant open-world map, revealing new locations to explore as go. Along the way you receive quests that you can complete at your own leisure. Therein lies the danger of this game: it is easy to get distracted and veer off from your goals and before you know it you’ve wasted twenty hours just trying to level up your blacksmithing or collect ingredients. I have already sunk 126 hours into this game, completing most of the main quests, and there’s still the urge to keep playing. I think I “only” managed to log about 95 hours in Oblivion.

But, this isn’t just a re-skinning of Oblivion. There have been many improvements not the least of which was removing the scaling-up the enemy difficulty as your character advanced. It’s good to actually feel more powerful as you gain more and more levels rather than having to fight uber-powerful rats throughout the entire game. In addition, the dual-wielding controls feel a bit more natural now but the game’s inventory system, although improved, was still clumsy enough to force me to install the SkyUI mod to fix it.

The graphical improvements are notable especially in terms of character animation. It’s not near the level of polish as some other recent games I’ve played like Tomb Raider, but it manages to be a pretty realistic world to explore with tons of details and vistas to discover.

I found the main quest line to be not terribly interesting. The world is on the verge of ending because of a reemergence  of ancient dragons. You must stop them, yadda yadda. At first I tried to immerse myself in the lore by reading every tome I discovered, but this got boring really quick. I suppose an Elder Scrolls lore obsessed player might think otherwise, but text info-dumps are just not a good way to reveal a fantasy universe in a video game. But, as my hours of playing will attest to, a riveting story is not the only way to keep players hooked. The exploration, the character building and loot collection are really what make this game so addicting and excellent.

The Pod by Ween - CD (7/10)

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The record is what happens when a band comprised of talented stoners is tasked with creating an LP’s worth of music but is not given any editorial oversight. There are a few good songs and plenty of hilarious, quotable passages (“Pollo Asado” comes to mind). However, there are also quite a few forgetful stinkers. In re-listening to this for the first time in a while there were tracks near the end of record which I had no recollection of ever having heard.

The Best of the Waitresses by Waitresses, The - CD (10/10)

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“I Know What Boys Like” was a personal new wave favorite for me as a kid. It was featured on K-tel’s The Beat new wave compilation—a comp which served as a launching point for so many bands for me (except for Graham Parker whose track absolutely sucked). The songs here are funny, energetic and fronted with snotty, attitude-filled vocals that are everything that 60s garage rock vocalists shrived for. This is also a rare example of saxophone working in pop music!

Greatest Hits by Ventures, The - CD (3/10)

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I bought this from a bargain bin at either Best Buy or some other big box retailer thinking that I would have the definitive collection of The Ventures’ classic instrumental guitar rock and roll. The neckerchiefs and wide collars on the cover should have been a dead giveaway for the disco-tinged crap that fills this CD. With the possible exception of “Hawaii Five-O,” I think all these songs are remakes of the originals. Remakes with funky bass lines and that steady boom-tiss disco beat that have more in common with Giorgio Morodor than Dick Dale. The songs border on being Meco’s “Star Wars & Other Galactic Funk” and straight up elevator music. There is a cheese-factor to this record that prevents me from getting rid of it, but it remains one of the most disappointing records I ever bought.

VU by Velvet Underground, The - CD (7/10)

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Another one of my wife’s CDs. I’ve never been much of a fan of this band but here, upon a second or third listen, I think I might like them despite Lou Reed’s singer/songwriter leanings (I care more about music than lyrics). The raw and seemingly untrained playing nicely exists somewhere between 60’s garage rock and 70’s punk rock. I will probably give there “official” releases a try soon.

Anthology by Vapors, The - CD (10/10)

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This is basically a CD repackaging of New Clear Days with about a third of the songs from Magnets. The Vapors are a new wave band that doesn’t really get the love they deserve. There’s not a bad song on New Clear Days. Their hit, “Turning Japanese” only scratched the surface of what they were capable of creating. These are smart, high-energy power-pop songs that deserve to be played loud and often.

Fear of a Punk Planet by Vandals, The - CD (4/10)

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I remember being pretty excited when I bought this CD. I loved the earliest Vandals records and finally being able to get something new from that band was a big thing for me. Turns out something happened between Peace Thru Vandalism and this. A big part of that something was that all but one of the original members remained in the band, and that one original member was now playing a different instrument. They apparently didn’t admire Wire’s one line-up one name policy (they changed their name to Wir when the drummer left the band) like I did. The jokey lyrics are still there but their sound morphed into that cheesy radio friendly pop-punk sound that you hear from bands like Blink 182. On top of that are cringe worthy shredder guitar solos that just scream Southern California metal. What’s missing is that tinge of “I don’t care what you think” anger or aggression that, while never mean-spirited, really drove those early records.

Peace Thru Vandalism / When In Rome by Vandals, The - CD (9/10)

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As a kid growing up in Central Illinois Peace Thru Vandalism was one the first “punk rock” records I ever heard. I wasn’t a punk rocker (or corn-chip as was the Peoria slang for anyone who looked even remotely “goth” or “punky”) but I did like much of the music and this record was a great gateway point for someone who grew up listening to Dr. Demento and novelty music. Vandals’ songs are funny and never very serious. Even their anarchist’s anthem “Anarchy Burger” is a goof. Despite the light-hearted tone, the music is loud and fun and everything the punk rock episode of Quincy M.E. promised.

The other half of this CD is the band’s first full-length record, When In Rome. The irreverent sense of humor is still there with songs like “Viking Suit” and “Slap of Luv,” but the music is a bit less aggressive and a bit more diverse (there’s even some scratching on “Ladykiller”). I am not sure that’s a good thing, but it works here for the most part.