Book 15 (of 52) – The Case Of The Velvet Claws

The Case Of The Velvet Claws – Erle Stanley Gardner

Following last week’s end of the first season of HBO’s Perry Mason reimagining, I decided to turn to the original source material for the first time.  The Case of the Velvet Claws is the first of 82 Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, first published in 1933.  In it, a woman hires Mason, wanting to keep a scandal rag owned by her husband from discovering she was out with another man.  When the husband turns up dead, she tries to keep the police away from here by pointing the finger at Perry, manages to avoid being double-crossed and still fights to free her from the charges.

The beginning of the series introduces us to mainstays Perry Mason, Della Street, and Paul Drake, but doesn’t do much in the way of giving them any sort of discernable character or background.  All you learn of them is the job that they hold, lawyer, secretary, and investigator, respectively.  If I wasn’t coming in to this with an existing knowledge of, and a certain fondness for, the property, I don’t know if that would have been more of a problem.  As it is, the Mason of the novel is a little rougher around the edges than the Raymond Burr version and a little more in line with the Matthew Rhys version.

If I manage to come across more of the Mason novels at a decent price, I’d be willing to go back for more.  To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised they aren’t being republished to capitalize on the publicity of the new series.

Book 12 (of 52) – Little Children

Little Children – Tom Perotta

In Little Children, Tom Perrotta tells us the tale of Sarah, a young housewife who spends her days at the playground with a group of mothers she can’t stand. When she meets Todd, a handsome young stay-at-home dad, they begin an affair that threatens both of their marriages, neither of which may be worth saving.  Will they throw it all away and run away together?  Or will they stay in their broken marriages for the sake of their children?  And where does the broken former policeman and the convicted sex offender he is obsessed with fit in?

I saw the movie version of this years ago and was familiar with the basics of the plot, but any details had long since left my mind.  When I saw the book on sale on the Kindle store, I decided to give it a shot given my recent experiences with Perrotta’s work and the HBO translations.  And, I was not disappointed.  Perrotta is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors, especially in the non-genre fields.  I don’t think I have anything else of his queued up on the Kindle, so I’ll have to keep a look out.

 

Post Mortem – Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley, the latest comedy from Mike Judge, wrapped up its 6 season run in December.  Premiering on HBO in 2014, the show centered on a startup that, for every step forward they took, ended up taking two steps back.  The last season saw them finally master their algorithm and the path to making it profitable, but found out that releasing it would destroy the concept of privacy and the online world as we know it.

Most of the crew, save the ostracized T.J. Miller, who was booted off in season 4, should continue to find good work that will entertain us for years to come.  Zach Woods has already appeared on HBO’s Avenue 5 and Kumail Nanjiani has found himself cast in The Eternals, part of the next wave of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Book 4 (of 52) – Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher – Tom Perrotta

Mrs. Fletcher is the second Tom Perrotta novel I’ve read after watching the adaptation on HBO.   This duo coming of age story revolves around Eve Fletcher, a divorcée undergoing a mid-life crisis, and her son Brendan, a college freshman having trouble adjusting to not being the popular athlete he was in high school.  She experiences a sexual reawakening that was missing from her earlier life, while he runs afoul of sexual norms while trying to navigate college life.

I can’t say the Mrs. Fletcher was a bad novel, but I can say I would have enjoyed it much more had I either read it before watching the series or if I had waited longer after the series concluded.  The series was a pretty faithful adaptation, which led to not much in the way of surprises when going through the novel.  The one big difference was the ending, where the series ended a chapter or two prior to the end of the book, which did provide more of a closure and wasn’t as abrupt.  The other big difference, at least to me, was in the presentation of Brendan.  In the series, he came off much douchier than he does in the book, with naivete replacing what came off as outright malice on the screen.

Between this and The Leftovers, I’m interested in looking into more of Perrotta’s work.  I should probably do so before HBO gets ahold of it, to try and get a pure reading on my feelings about his work.

iTunes Top 200: #144

itunes_image4 years ago, we last counted down the Top 200 songs in my iTunes library. Since my iTunes stats are still intact, across multiple PCs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones, I figured it was time to take another look at my most listened to songs, based on number of plays as of January 1, 2020.

We continue on today with the next batch of songs tied for 144th place with 31 listens since my stats began in late 2007.

#144: Hole – Celebrity Skin
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 12/20/2019
Previous ranking: #79

A big drop for Hole’s most commercially successful single, being the only one to reach #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

#144: Harry Caray – Take Me Out To The Ballgame
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 10/2/2019
Previous ranking: Unranked

An impressive debut for this version of the baseball classic, which features on my Cubs victory playlist.

#144: Green Day – Basket Case
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 8/30/2019
Previous ranking: #79

The third single from the band’s major label debut, it spent 5 weeks atop the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

#144: Great White – Once Bitten Twice Shy
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 12/11/2019
Previous ranking: #56

A big drop for the biggest hit from the band best known for a fire, which also appears on Volume 4 of my mix tapes.

#144: George Carlin – Telephone Mimes
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 11/25/2019
Previous ranking: Unranked

Yet another entry from Carlin’s 17th album and twelfth HBO stand-up special.

#144: Foo Fighters – All My Life
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iTunes Top 200: #170 Continued

itunes_image4 years ago, we last counted down the Top 200 songs in my iTunes library. Since my iTunes stats are still intact, across multiple PCs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones, I figured it was time to take another look at my most listened to songs, based on number of plays as of January 1, 2020.

We continue today with the next group of ten songs tied for 170th place with 30 plays apiece since my stats began in late 2007.

#170: The Offspring – Come Out And Play
iTunes stats: 30 plays, most recently on 8/16/2019
Previous ranking: #96

A precipitous drop for this breakthrough single for the punk band, which garnered a mere 10 new listens over the past 4 years. It also appears on Volume 14 of my mix tapes.

#170: The Moopets – Rainbow Connection
iTunes stats: 30 plays, most recently on 11/9/2019
Previous ranking: #167

A 13 song increase keeps this version of the Muppets classic, featuring Fozzie Bear pushing the virtues of a casino from The Muppets, about even from 4 years ago, ranking wise.

#170: The Monkees – I’m A Believer
iTunes stats: 30 plays, most recently on 10/23/2019
Previous ranking: #167

Composed by Neil Diamond, the song spent 7 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts between 1966 and 1967.

#170: Lustra – Scotty Doesn’t Know
iTunes stats: 30 plays, most recently on 11/18/2019
Previous ranking: #118

The main song from the film Eurotrip, explaining how poor Scotty doesn’t know his girlfriend is cheating on him, adds only 11 new listens, dropping quite a bit in the rankings.

#170: Ludacris – Get Back
iTunes stats: 30 plays, most recently on 7/28/2019
Previous ranking: Unranked

Having peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2005, the song makes an impressive debut on the chart.

#170: Letters To Cleo – Here & Now
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Post Mortem – Crashing

As Crashing was wrapping up its third season back in March, HBO announced that the show, starring comedian Pete Holmes in an autobiographical tale about his breaking in to stand up, would not be returning.  I was originally drawn to the show by Holmes, who I’ve heard on a few podcasts over the years, and Artie Lange, who made numerous guest appearances in the first season, but whose drug use and legal issues have limited his role since.  I liked the show and think it still had room to grow, but HBO looks to be revamping themselves to prepare for the end of their Game of Thrones cash cow.

Midseason Review – Sundays

old-tv-set1With the advent of winter premieres, the start of the premium cable network shows, and with February sweeps around the corner, it’s time to revisit my thoughts from the beginning of the season and look ahead at what’s to come for Sunday nights.

8:00

Shameless – Season 8 of the show is on tap to return in November.

The Gallagher clan is close to wrapping up their latest season, which has been interesting, as always.

The Walking Dead – I kind of lost interest in season 7, following the (in my opinion) bungling of the introduction of Negan in the previous season finale.  I have 14 episodes sitting on the DVR, so it may soon be time for a decision on whether to continue with the show or not.

While I continued recording the show, I have yet to jump back in and watch any.  I may be about ready to jump ship and delete them.

So that’s where we stand with the shows I planned to watch in the fall. Let’s take a look at new shows starting this spring:

Homeland – The show returns in February for its 7th (and final?) season, with Carrie goes up against a president who she feels is abusing the power of the office.

Counterpart – STARZ enters the fray with a sci-fi espionage drama starring J.K. Simmons.

Crashing – Pete Holmes returns to HBO for his second season.

Book 28 (of 52) – The Leftovers

The Leftovers – Tom Perrotta

Following the end of the television show on HBO earlier this year, I was interested in the book that started it all.  Loosely adapted as the first season of the show, The Leftovers tells the story of a small town three years after a rapture-like event causes people to disappear.  Some, like Nora Durst, lost their entire family.  Some, like Laurie Garvey, don’t know how to cope with the new world order and leave their family to join a cult.  Others, like Kevin and Jill Garvey, learn to deal with the losses around them.

It had been a few years since the first season of the show aired, so, aside from the characters, I wasn’t too familiar with the beats of the tale.  While there were obviously some liberties taken in the adaptation, the book brings you back to a simpler time, just as everyone is starting to really deal with the events of October 14.

This was my first experience with Perrotta’s work, though it appears that I’ve seen movie adaptations of some of his other books.  I may try to track down some of those other books and see if the experience is as good as this one.

 

2017 Emmy Awards – Drama

Emmy_statueTonight’s the night for the Emmy Awards, so it’s time to finish off my predictions for the awards.  Today, we’re focusing on the awards for Dramas.  I most likely have seen most of these shows, so, unlike my annual Oscar predictions, I will not mostly be going on gut feel and word of mouth, but will have a somewhat informed decision.

Outstanding Drama

Better Call Saul

The Crown

The Handmaid’s Tale

 

House of Cards

Stranger Things

This Is Us

Westworld

I watched two of these, but I don’t expect either of them to win.  With Westworld being HBO’s only entry, my guess is it will take home the prize.

Outstanding Actress In A Drama

Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder

Claire Foy, The Crown

Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Keri Russell, The Americans

Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

Robin Wright, House of Cards

If it were up to me, I’d give the award to either Keri Russell, but I assume that Viola Davis will take home the prize.

Outstanding Actor In A Drama

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Anthony Hopkins, Westworld

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Some new blood in this category.  I’m assuming that Brown and Ventimiglia will split the vote and leave Sir Hopkins to claim victory.

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