Wry Martinis

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I picked this up years ago, and it finally worked its way to the top of the TBR pile. It's a 1997 collection of pieces by Christopher Buckley (son of the late great WFB, Jr.); most previously appeared in magazines like Esquire and the New Yorker. The book has adulatory back-blurbs from Joseph Heller, John Updike, and Tom Wolfe; that's pretty impressive.

Oddly enough, the funniest thing in here is the index, a few pages of things like:

Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice
    Ruth Bader

  secret sex life of, 56-59
Yes, that still holds up. Unfortunately a lot of current-events stuff here has outlived its shelf life, but if you can put your mind back 15-20 years, you might get into it.

There are a lot of humorous bits, but the best are straight reporting about things like what goes on aboard the Nimitz and—no foolin'—flying in an F-16 with the USAF Thunderbirds. Very cool and interesting.

Unfortunately, Buckley plays it safe when touching on politics. There's nothing here to ruffle the feathers of your average New Yorker reader. (He created a bit of a storm by endorsing Obama in 2008; Iowahawk's parody is much funnier than anything here.)

Also (page 147) there are two glaring mistakes: Rod Taylor didn't rescue Yvette Mimieux from the Eloi in The Time Machine—she was an Eloi, and was rescued from the Morlocks. And astronauts don't pull twenty-five Gs during liftoff (unless something is very very wrong); the shuttle maxed out at about 3 Gs.

Last Modified 2012-09-25 11:55 AM EDT


stars] [IMDb Link] [IMDB Rating: 7.3] [Amazon Link]

A 1942 American movie from Alfred Hitchcock, starring Robert Cummings as the hero.

Cummings plays Barry Kane, a worker at a Southern California aviation plant, obviously vital to the war effort. A disastrous fire starts and Barry's buddy is killed while bravely trying to get it under control. Guess what? It's sabotage! And Barry finds himself being railroaded as the culprit, as the fire extinguisher he handed his friend had been fiendishly filled with gasoline.

It turns out the actual bad guy was Frye, the guy that handed Barry the extinguisher just before. But Barry's the only person who knows this, and he can't get the authorities to believe him. So he slips out of the noose, and goes in search of Frye. Before long, he's in over his head, uncovering a rats' nest of Nazi spies and killers. Along the way he picks up a love interest, Pat; she's initially suspicious, but eventually gets swept up in the cross-country intrigue as well.

Quibbles: the movie drags in spots, and suffers from some big "why didn't the bad guys just…" credibility problems. And I'm more used to Bob Cummings being the star of 50s/60s TV sitcoms, where he played a fast-talking smooth playboy type. Seeing him as an action hero is a little discordant.

But overall, my interest was held, and the ending is classic. (Don't watch the trailer, though, because they give it away.)

Last Modified 2012-09-25 11:56 AM EDT