Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittlemark - Blogcritics Books

Book Review: Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittlemark - Blogcritics Books

Article first published as Book Review: Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittlemark - Blogcritics Books on Blogcritics.


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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Book Review: The CIA World FactBook 2011

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The World FactBook 2011, put out by the CIA, is a dream for any trivia lover. All countries are listed, arranged neatly in alphabetical order. Although the information has changed over time, this reflects how the world has experienced a shift in parameter and objective. For example, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics used to be one large country. As it broke up into smaller territories, the FactBook reflected that.

The 2011 version is the first time the data has been made available to the public. Keep in mind the CIA is a covert operations group whose work generally gets reported solely to those who need the knowledge, such as the U.S. Committee on Armed Services (in both the House and the Senate). This makes sense when one considers Congress must give the President authorization to initiate war. Checks and balances are essential for government to work, and something like the FactBook helps people to make certain decisions.

Along with the ability to quickly look up any information on any country, there are also several more helps included. For example, a list of definitions the FactBook commonly used will assist any reader in defining exactly what the authors intend. The list is quite lengthy, but well worth the read.

At the back are conversion charts and other mathematical concepts designed to help aid comprehension of data. Maps are used in showing things such as population, age statistics, or how far HIV is spread in a particular country.

Although quite long, the attention to detail is impressive. Just about any tidbit imaginable has been included for quick and easy reference. For obvious reasons, not every detail is put in. However, what might be left out is probably not necessary for the general public.

The FactBook is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the world he or she lives in. Trivia geeks are going to love it as well.

Article first published as Book Review: The CIA World FactBook 2011 by Central Intelligence Agency on Blogcritics.

Monday, August 23, 2010

TV Review: Eureka - "Stoned" - Video - Blogcritics


Allow me to start off by explaining the episode title is not what one might think. Yes, the show has taken a wild turn since several of the main characters took a trip back to 1947 ("Founders Day"). They returned, but found things were not exactly the same as when they left. However, nobody requires a joint in order to cope.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment has been that of Dr. Trevor Grant (James Callis). He works with Albert Einstein to make Eureka into the the town of science gurus it is currently. He hitches a ride into current day 2010, and trouble manages to follow ("A New World"). To explain his presence, Fargo (Neil Grayston) decides Grant will become Charles Grant, science historian. Fargo is now head of Global Dynamics, the place where technology is developed for the Department of Defense. Few have a problem with the title, but Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) is too busy being sheriff to quibble.

For the other romance part, the triangle played by Ferguson, Callis, and Salli Richardson Whitfield, who is cast as Dr. Allison Blake, is still playing out. Callis has three episodes left on his contract. Will he leave with Richardson Whitfield, or disappear like Nathan Stark ("I Do Over")? Time tells.

Ferguson wisely narrates a recap of the season through clips of past episodes before the episode starts. Wise move, since figuring out what goes in which timeline can be a little tricky. Relationships have changed, jobs are not in the same locations. Both past and present are colliding, and the end result could wind up in disaster.

Science has always played a part in this series, even if storylines are seriously fiction. This week stretches credibility with the fossil setup. I'm okay with the statue bit, but how it works out doesn't sound very likely. Of course, this is also television. Perhaps it shouldn't make sense as a rule.

Joe Morton, who plays Henry, directed "Stoned". The dark tones of Grant having his biggest secret possibly revealed is solid. There is a major twist in the last two minutes. While a pretty good hint is given about which gender is involved, the actual person may be somewhat of a surprise. Considering Callis is under contract for three more episodes, his best work could be yet to come in a deeper, darker plot.

The musical number is fun, although not really the best song to show off one's musical abilities. Just saying...

The return of Jordan Hinson as Zoe, Jack's daughter, is a nice touch. Hinson has had the dubious distinction of growing up onscreen from a brat to a mature young lady. Now, viewers get to see Hinson playing a college student, at Harvard no less. A blossoming relationship between Zoe and Zane (Niall Matter) may be on the horizon. If so, Jo (Erica Cerra) is not willing to stand by and let things happen. After all, she is the one Zane proposed to just before everyone took a trip backwards in time ("Founders Day"). Zane needs to nip things in the bud, and quickly.

Eureka is not typically a show which splits a season like some other cable shows. It runs straight through to its end. More and more surprises are probably on the way.

Article first published as TV Review: Eureka - "Stoned" - Video - Blogcritics on Blogcritics.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

TV Review: White Collar - "In The Red" - Video - Blogcritics

Being part of an FBI task force to take down criminals is a risky profession. While there is skill involved, not to mention a serious amount of training, some things can't be known beforehand. Take the case of the missing merchandise. Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) should have the easy part. Meet with a woman who has offered to trade expensive jewelry for $200,000. If the items are the ones stolen, strike up a conversation using a specific codeword so the FBI team can make an arrest. After a problem arises with the woman's son in the back seat, both Neal and FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) realize there is more to the story.



It's not long before Catherine, the suspected thief, leads the duo down a completely different path. It seems she is trying to adopt a child from overseas, but runs into a legal snafu with the birth mother. At least that's what the attorney, Luke Donovan (John Larroquette, Night Court, Boston Legal), said. He asks for one hundred grand to fix the problem. Alarm bells are quickly raised.

Larroquette is an actor well known for a variety of roles. Those viewers familiar with his work on Night Court will appreciate just how sleazily he plays his character. There is a scene early in the
episode with DeKay which is compelling. The adeptness with which each holds ground without giving way to the other shows how strong these two are as performers.

Depth is added with the element of organized crime. Watching Bomer and Larroquette at the poker table is a visual feast. The look is authentic, but the fascination comes with seeing each actor play with intensity. Both understand how high the stakes are.

Hilarie Burton is back as Sara Ellis, the insurance investigator who is under the distinct impression Neal has stolen a painting. Since the painting has yet to be shown, the question is debatable. However, Sara is even more determined to nail Neal after a package disappears from her apartment. This is not the typical parcel. It's the voice recording, aka "black box," from the plane Kate Moreau died in the midst of an explosion ("Out of the Box").

The contents of the recording are best not revealed here. I will say the mystery deepens a bit. Here's a small hint - another person is involved. Who, exactly? Hard to tell. The sound effects team does a decent job of creating a muffled piece of equipment. A little too well might be the better description. It is quite garbled, to the point of being easily misinterpreted. This being said, the options are open as to John or Jane Doe.

Article first published as TV Review: White Collar - "In The Red" - Video - Blogcritics on Blogcritics.

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TV Review: White Collar - "In The Red" - Page 2 - Video - Blogcritics

Being part of an FBI task force to take down criminals is a risky profession. While there is skill involved, not to mention a serious amount of training, some things can't be known beforehand. Take the case of the missing merchandise. Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) should have the easy part. Meet with a woman who has offered to trade expensive jewelry for $200,000. If the items are the ones stolen, strike up a conversation using a specific codeword so the FBI team can make an arrest. After a problem arises with the woman's son in the back seat, both Neal and FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) realize there is more to the story.

It's not long before Catherine, the suspected thief, leads the duo down a completely different path. It seems she is trying to adopt a child from overseas, but runs into a legal snafu with the birth mother. At least that's what the attorney, Luke Donovan (John Larroquette, Night Court, Boston Legal), said. He asks for one hundred grand to fix the problem. Alarm bells are quickly raised.

Larroquette is an actor well known for a variety of roles. Those viewers familiar with his work on Night Court will appreciate just how sleazily he plays his character. There is a scene early in the episode with DeKay which is compelling.
The adeptness with which each holds ground without giving way to the other shows how strong these two are as performers.



Depth is added with the element of organized crime. Watching Bomer and Larroquette at the poker table is a visual feast. The look is authentic, but the fascination comes with seeing each actor play with intensity. Both understand how high the stakes are.

Hilarie Burton is back as Sara Ellis, the insurance investigator who is under the distinct impression Neal has stolen a painting. Since the painting has yet to be shown, the question is debatable. However, Sara is even more determined to nail Neal after a package disappears from her apartment. This is not the typical parcel. It's the voice recording, aka "black box," from the plane Kate Moreau died in the midst of an explosion ("Out of the Box").

The contents of the recording are best not revealed here. I will say the mystery deepens a bit. Here's a small hint - another person is involved. Who, exactly? Hard to tell. The sound effects team does a decent job of creating a muffled piece of equipment. A little too well might be the better description. It is quite garbled, to the point of being easily misinterpreted. This being said, the options are open as to John or Jane Doe.

Article first published as TV Review: White Collar - "In The Red" - Page 2 - Video - Blogcritics on Blogcritics.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

TV Review: White Collar - "By the Book" - Video - Blogcritics



Ever since Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) decided to earn his living as a con artist, his life has taken a series of twists and turns he probably would not have considered as possibilities. Getting caught by the FBI would be one of them. Good thing Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), one of the top agents, gets to be the guy who catches Neal. Twice, actually. Long time love Kate leaving him, though, is more than Neal's heart is prepared to handle.

At the moment, I do not have too much trouble believing Kate is dead. The plane she is in blows pretty much to kingdom come, and chances of her survival are slim. The bigger question is who would go to such lengths. Revenge? It's a reasonable assumption. The tactic sends Neal a message of just how high the stakes are. Especially if someone close to him is no longer around.

No wonder Neal is willing to help Mozzie (Willie Garson), when Gina (Diane Farr, Numb3rs), whom Mozzie has an affection for, goes missing. This is merely a crush, but the chances of real trouble are a possibility. When they discover Gina's place has been trashed, both realize action has got to be taken. There's only one problem - the issue of asking the FBI for help.

Garson just might be one of the greatest character actors out there. He brings an over the top wit to the show which adds special moments to each episode. Viewers have gotten to see just how complex Mozzie is, which says something about the talent Garson has. For starters, Mozzie is a nickname Neal uses, and even Peter does not know who the bespectacled short dude really is. In fairness, there is perhaps only one thing "Mozzie" could be short for, which doesn't make sense with his lactose intolerance. A certain adjective, though, might work better.


Watching Garson enter the FBI bureau is movie magic. Not only does Mozzie shuffle his feet, indicating his high level of discomfort, the tune "Flight of the Bumblebees" is a brilliant touch. Matt Bomer could have come off a bit more sympathetic, as he appears to blow off Garson's distress. I thought Garson just might faint on the way up to Peter's office, but that would probably have been a bit over the top.

Of course, the episode would not be worthy of White Collar if there was not a chance for an undercover sting. Under ordinary circumstances, the job would fall to Neal with the Feds close behind. Seeing Bomer in the humidor of the cigar bar early on is reminiscent of "Pilot", and DeKay gets to set up the scene for the final showdown later. By the time it happens, the viewer is left on edge as to how things will turn out, which heightens the tension factor.

Elizabeth is almost back. Tiffani Theissen has been absent for several episodes after giving birth earlier this year. However, the scene between her and Peter at lunch reminds folks just how good the chemistry between DeKay and Thiessen is.


For now, the music box storyline is left aside. There will be plenty of time down the road for things to come to fruition. Less than a month of episodes remain before the summer finale, but the series will continue its run come January or so after the fall premieres have had time to air and get cut due to low ratings.


Article first published as TV Review: White Collar - "By the Book" - Video - Blogcritics on Blogcritics.org





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