29 Dec. 2010
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Dead or Alinzer

Tom Clancy's Dead Or Alive

When I started this blog in 2006, I admitted being fond of both John le Carr and Tom Clancy.  At that time, it had been about three years since Clancy delivered his most recentTom Clancy's new novel Dead or Alive.  If you look carefully, you can find his co-author Grant Blackwood mentioned in poorly contrasting mice type. epic of the "Ryanverse."  Teeth of the Tiger ended with a promise, and I was eager to read the sequel.  Based on Clancy's typical biennial output, it was already due, but there was no word about when it might appear.  Finally, almost five years later, the other slipper has lazily drifted to the fully carpeted floor, but it might as well have stayed on the author's foot for all the joy it is likely to bring to his legion of fans.

So what's the problem?  Nobody has ever accused Clancy of writing "literature" and this book won't change that.  But I've always enjoyed the sweep of his plots on the world stage.  This book's plot superficially has a wide scope, but it really devolves into a bunch of separate vignettes which are connected by some country hopping and local color.  There are as many loose ends as John Cleese's "ready cut, easy to handle, Simpson's individual Emperor Stringettes."  The action in many cases depends on some nick-of-time cryptology which is both improbable and technically inaccurate.  Compulsive though I admit to being, I even found a number of copy editing errors, something one wouldn't expect in a book of this commercial stature.  At least there is enough gratuitous violence, but even that is less satisfying in this novel since in many cases it serves no real purpose except to increase the page count.  (Yes, I know what gratuitous means, but even so...)

Outside the Ryan canon, Clancy has collaborated with a number of people to produce forgettable novels and books about military hardware.  If you look carefully at the photo of the book jacket above, you can see in mice type and poor contrast the credit "with Grant Blackwood," who is (to whatever extent) Clancy's co-author and frequent collaborator.  Co-authorship is common and respectable, but it's no great challenge to increase the contrast of the book jacket printing to make the name visible before purchase.  That they decided not to do so is, in my opinion, a small step short of deceptive marketing. 

I'm disappointed with Clancy after two decades, and it's potentially terminal.  I certainly won't invest in reading any future Ryanverse kilopage tome unless somebody gives it a much better review than I have given Dead or Alive.  I am, however, still fond of John le Carr.

Now THIS is a Linzer Torte

From the Viking Bakery, custom made 10-inch Linzer torte, compared with a their standard version. Top:  A "standard" Linzer torte.  Bottom:  Custom baking at its finest.

Linzer torte from the Bread Factory in NYC.  Stale, uninspiring, but at least fairly expensive.

So are these from the Bread Factory,
 which should stick to bread,

From the well regarded Food Emporium in NYC, standard and half chocolated Linzer tortes.  Quite good.

and these well-sugared specimens from
 the Food Emporium

A shortcut through Grand Central Station led me past Zarro's.  Fresh one day, a bit stale the second, but nonetheless flavorful.

and this surprise find from Zarro's in the
heart and bustle of Grand Central Station

Apologies to Physicists Everywhere

I did it and I'm sad.  Although there's nothing like a festive helium balloon to liven up an event, there's nothing like helium, period.  After inveighing against its waste, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that not only did it come in kits, but that I would find myself involved in using one.  As when a rabid environmentalist is picked up in a Hummer, etiquette requires silence but a certain amount of inner squirming must be endured.  Disregarding the breathtakingly comprehensive warning statement, I did inhale the last anti-gram or so to no obvious ill effect.  Small consolation:  I found someone able to re-use the empty tank.

Lee Michaels




I need a ruling. 

Look in the neck area and you'll see some tiny buttons that would appear to mate with the holes on the opposite side.  Except there are only mock holes that are either sewn shut, or perhaps were never open at all.  I'm afraid that if I were to wear this I'd be committing a premeditated act of fashion.  Would somebody who knows about such things tell me if this is "just a T-shirt," albeit one that delivers the message "there's a bathroom on the left"? 

Or is it a "fashion statement" better worn by someone who isn't me?

Richard Factor

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