Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Back again, at long last, with a new TUESDAY TOP FIVE!

It's a new year, both out here in LA and everywhere else, and Our Man in LA has been waylaid recently with the need to see Oscar-bait movies, to catch up in the workplace, and complete the new script. Hence, the list-making and generally snarky editorializing that goes on here has been sorely lacking.

Well, not anymore. Our Man in LA is back, and there's a Top Five for Tuesday.

As regular readers know, Our Man in LA often struggles with not making this listing longer than the average Russian novel. To that end, we're going to strive for shorter entries in the Top Five, and our other two regular Tuesday features - the Bottom One, and the Father-in-Law note of the week - will get their own postings.

But on with that there top five:

5) JOLIE BLON'S BOUNCE by James Lee Burke. Our Man in LA likes him some detective fiction, and occasionally he strays from his regular faves (Robert Parker, Michael Connelly, and classics like Hammett, Chandler, and MacDonald) to read something else on the market.

Burke's one of the best out there. His recovering alcoholic detective, Dave Robicheaux, solves intense and twisted murder mysteries in semi-rural Louisiana, but there's more than just startling puzzles and the occasional dead cracker in these works. Haunted by booze dreams and a less-than-perfect nature, Robicheaux often finds himself immersed in semi-metaphysical struggles between good and evil. Are the killers he faces really just bad men, or are they part of something greater, or more weight than the average conspiracy?

Check it out. Won't take no for an answer. And don't tell me you're not interested because you saw the movie version of the Robicheaux novel HEAVEN'S PRISONERS (which you only watched because of Teri Hatcher's nude scene) and didn't like it. Not a good movie, but a very good series.

4) The Library Ale House in Santa Monica. Pretty much everything you need in a bar and grille. Good, obscure beers on tap. Decent bar grub, running the gamut from the fried stuff to the more healthy and eclectic (fish tacos and the like). Dimly lit, with a long bar and tables, loud enough to enjoy a game but quiet enough so you can talk to your buddies. And a cool patio built into a hill.

Good stuff. And it's on Main in Santa Monica, one of the few remnants of small town California living still in existence in modern LA.

3) The NFL. One game to go, and as I mentioned in a previous post, the league is bullet-proof. Who's playing in the big game? Pittsburgh and Seattle. Do I care about either team. Nope. I should hate Pittsburgh because they're rivals to my beloved Bengals. But I'm probably rooting for them. Our Woman in LA's disappointed in the Panthers not making it, but she'll be on hand to watch it too.

The Super Bowl is the closest thing the modern USA has to a pure secular, non-historical holiday that we all love. It's Christmas and New Year's and Easter and Thanksgiving all wrapped up into one. Sure, there's probably some beret-wearing guy out there who'll say that it's endemic of some sort of loss of liberty to a consumerist culture or some claptrap. But we don't like that guy, anyway.

2) MAUS by Art Spiegelman. All right, this one's a no-brainer, but I've been reading and re-reading a lot of the classics of the graphic novel genre, and I finally got back to this one. I first read Spiegelman's opus in the 80s, when I was in high school and it was new on the shelves. Loved it then, but re-reading it today (with the added material of Maus II) took me back to just how crushing a document of humanity this is. We all know Spiegelman's a genius, but this is a piece of art of just plain devastating clarity and power.

Dead serious here, ladies and germs. I'm hoping that the next generation of kids raised in this country will have to read this book when they're in junior high or high school. It's a classic of 20th century art and lit, and it must not be ignored. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor. Pick it up. Like a lot of great art, it's more than just the sum of its parts. More than just panels of a graphic novel. More than just a metaphor where Jews are presented as mice, with the Nazis as cats, Americans as dogs, and Poles as pigs. There's so much more.

1) 24. From the sublime to the ridiculous, I suppose. From a great work of art to a really fun one.

24 is just about my favorite TV show, year in and year out, and certainly my favorite drama. I've been waiting since the fall to see its return, and I surely haven't been disappointed.

What makes this Kiefer Sutherland vehicle so great? Frankly, it takes risks. I never know what's going to happen, never see the action coming, and am always blown away by the complex, intricate plotting. We're about five hours into the fifth really bad day in Counterterrorist Jack Bauer's life now. And what's happened?

* Two major characters, who have been with us from nearly the beginning, are dead.

* Another major player is clinging to life in the hospital after an attack.

* There's been a terrorist attack on a major Los Angeles airport.

* Jack's been framed for something really, really horrific.

Do I know what's going to happen? No. But I have a feeling it'll involve Jack kicking some ass.

So great to have this show back.

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