Terrific thriller strands an astronaut on Mars

The Martian
"The Martian," by Andy Weir, is the most fun we've had between hardcovers for a while, an excellent thriller about an astronaut stranded on Mars and his onegoing struggle to stay alive and hope for rescue. It's a fascinating read, filled with palatable science, charm and humor. Read John Orr's review.

Shuffling off this mortal coil

"Changing the Way We Die" is an excellent book about the hospice movement, covering it from its beginnings centuries ago on the trail to the Holy Land to the United States today, where it has begun big business and has big bureaucracy hanging around its neck. It's a better way to shuffle off this mortal coil, and writers Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel have produced an excellent book about it. Read John Orr's review.

A terrific Pendergast thriller

"White Fire" is a return to high form for Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child in their mostly excellent series about FBI very Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. In this one, his protégé, Corrie Swanson, gets in trouble when she visits a Colorado town for rich people to do forensics on some very old bones. A fun read, with plenty of thrills. Read the review by John Orr.

A surprising turn in a Jack Reacher story

"Never Go Back" is another fun read from novelist Lee Child, but it's kind of a departure from Reacher's usual kick-ass ways. In this one, he meets a woman who is his match. Read the review.

Creating a fantasy world in Palo Alto

"Someone Dark Has Found Me" has witches, wizards, geniuses, homeless people and a lot of kissing. Mark Johnson reviews. Read his review.
John Orr

A fun outtake from 'Someone Dark Has Found Me'

A Maximilian's Window plays in an important part in the book, toward the end, when the evil is really hitting the fan. We're running a healthy chunk of charming words that didn't get in the final book. Read it here.

The trip from Jamaican cane fields to San Francisco

"From Rum to Roots" is an excellent first novel by photo journalist Lloyd Francis. It touches on the history of Jamaica and its people, but mostly is a well-told tale of people born on the island who want more for their families, in Jamaica and in the United States. Read John Orr's review.

Walter Mosley brings Easy Rawlins back from the dead

"Little Green" is a great story that finds our hero back from a two-month deep sleep to find hippies, peace and free love on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. And, some very nasty drug dealers. Read John Orr's review.

See more reviews and interviews in Books.

Video games

Regarding Arts
Testing a KontrolFreeks Phantom.
KontrolFreeks are doodads that attach to the tops of game-controller joysticks, for the purpose of increasing speed, control and comfort. We were doubtful, but tried 'em and liked 'em. Read all about it.


Internet Movie Database



Balagan Theatre, Seattle Rep
Ernest Shackleton
Jeff Carpenter / Balagan Theatre
Valerie Vigoda pushes, left, as Wade McCollum pulls in "Ernest Shackleton Loves Me," on the Leo K stage at ACT Seattle from April 18 through May 3, 2014. It's great; Jasmine Joshua saw it, and she says you should, too. Read her review.
"Ernest Shackleton Loves Me" proves what we have decided is a New Rule of Modern Theatre: If Wade McCollum is in a show, go see that show. Immediately. "Ernest" has a fine book by Joe DiPietro, and music and lyrics by Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn. Vigoda co-stars. Read Jasmine Joshua's review.

San Jose Stage Company

An Iliad
Dave Lepori / San Jose Stage Company
Jackson Davis as The Poet in the San Jose Stage Company production of "An Iliad," adapted from Homer by Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare. Directed by Kenneth Kelleher. An old broom handle becomes a lance as The Poet reenacts battlefield killings with a broken heart. Read John Orr's review of this outstanding play.
"An Iliad" at San Jose Stage Company is not to be missed. Jackson Davis is the one-man cast in this brilliant adaptation of the ancient epic, masterfully moving the audience to tears of pathos and of humor. Read John Orr's review.

Jared Oates / Berkeley Rep
Jesse J. Perez as Bertozzo, left, and Renata Friedman as Felletti in Dario Fo’s classic comedy, "Accidental Death of an Anarchist," at Berkeley Rep, March 7 through April 20, 2014.
Renata Friedman is one of the most brilliant actors we've ever seen. She was mesmerizing in "Upright Grand" at TheatreWorks a few years back, and is now helping audiences roll with laughter in "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" at Berkeley Rep. We talked with her. Read the interview.

Hound of Baskervilles
Tracy Martin / TheatreWorks
Michael Gene Sullivan as Watson, Darren Bridgett as Baskerville and Ron Campbell as Sherlock Holmes in TheatreWorks' comedy "The Hound of the Baskervilles," playing April 2-27, 2014 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Read John Orr's review of opening night. Or, read Joanne Englehardt's review of opening night.
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" proves a howling good time at TheatreWorks in Mountain View, with three actors essaying 20 roles and goofiness and silliness in constant control of the stage. Read John Orr's review of opening night. Or, read Joanne Englehardt's review of opening night.

Janiva Magness
Janiva Magness
Jeff Dunas photo
Singer Janiva Magness
Janiva Magness is some kinda powerful blues singer. She's touring, in support of her latest album, "Stronger For It," and talked with us about the path that put her on the blues highway. Read the interview.
Caught it on Netflix Dept.
Stand Up Men
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Katheryn Winnick and Alan Arkin in "Stand Up Guys."
"Stand Up Guys" is a gem of a gritty crime comedy that really shines because of the performances of Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Alan Arkin is fun to watch, too, and there are other good performances, but Pacino and Walken make this one special. Read John Orr's review.


For ears and eyes

Judy Garland was an amazing talent, unmatched in many ways. Want the proof? Lend eyes and ears to her singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in a poor quality recording from the ancient days of TV. Fabulous.
Some guys singing "Bad Romance." It's so much fun.
Molly Bell is amazing. We have a profile of her here in Triviana Arts & Entertainment, but here's a favorite video of her performing in Divas for Life. Find out more about Divas for Life.
Lake Street Dive is a band formed by Rachael Price, who is a wonderful vocalist. I love this tune, which I heard on A Prairie Home Companion. Then I found this video.
Johnny Swim. I heard this duo perform "Home" on "A Prairie Home Companion" and was knocked out.
"Laundry Room." Another from The Avett Brothers. Here is another tune that delves deep into emotion and yearning.
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Fabulous band performs in 2004 to honor George Harrison upon his posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, Steve Ferrone, Dhani Harrison and Prince. Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers does the early solo stuff. Prince shows up and takes over.
"Deportee." The Kingston Trio version, posted July 14, 2012, in honor of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.
Tim O'Brien: "Hey, Joe," at Celtic Connections 2009, Glasgow Scotland.
Trucks & Tedeschi Band: "Midnight in Harlem," at the 2010 Guitar Festival.
Asylum Street Spankers: "Monkey Rag," and "If You Want Me to Love You."
Van Morrison: "Real Real Gone."
OK Go: "This Too Shall Pass." Incredible Rube Goldberg machine video.
Willie Dixon: "I'm Nervous." Funny and charming video of the great songwriter, singer and bassist.
Boxing Gandhis: "If You Love Me (Why Am I Dyin')" Hip, funky and hot in every way.
John Lee Sanders: Fabulous musician. Give a listen to "Midnight in New Orleans".


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