Tag Archives: Scott P.

Sicario: A Must See (If You Have The Stomach For It)

Two weeks ago I saw Sicario. This bleak, nihilistic exploration of the ill-fated drug war offers unforgettable performances from stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Ms. Blunt plays Kate Macer, an idealistic FBI agent on the trail of a major drug trafficking ring near the border between the United States and Mexico. After a break in the case that results in the deaths of several law enforcement officers, Macer gets called into a high-level meeting to meet Matt Graver (played by Mr. Brolin). Looking more like a washed-up surf bum than a federal agent, Graver leads a shadowy team of operatives hunting only the biggest fish among the Mexican drug lords. He asks Macer in, and she accedes. From there things get messy.

Sicario is wonderfully paced and directed by Dennis Villeneuve and gorgeously shot by director of photography Roger Deakins. It features a chilling performance by Mr. Del Toro as the mysterious Alejandro, a man seemingly working for the “good guys,” but readily capable of heinous acts of violence. Agent Macer realizes she is in over her head during a nearly disastrous foray over the border into Mexico, and the movie quickly cranks the moral ambiguity up to ten and then breaks the nob off.

Sicario stays with you. That’s why I believe it will be an Oscar contender. It got me thinking about other movies and books about crime and the drug war that have had a similar affect on me.

Here’s a quick list of some titles that fit this description:

Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days Of The War On Drugs (Book)

Heat (DVD)

Scarface (DVD)

To Die In Mexico: Dispatches From Inside The Drug War (Book)

Traffic (DVD)

–Scott P.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’ve Got Nothing Against Bram Stoker, But…

A little over three weeks out from Halloween, I thought it might be fun to write a quick post about vampire fiction. I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s great, but I prefer Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Mr. Stoker literally wrote the rules on vampire fiction with Dracula, and Mr. King followed suit with some flourishes of his own.

Since then we’ve seen many non-traditional takes on the fictional vampire. I am particularly fond of two.

Octavia Butler’s Fledgling mixes strong and accessible prose with a unique angle on the vampire genre. Her vampires constitute a species apart from humans, not undead  supernatural monsters. She tells the story from the perspective of a young (by vampire standards) girl who must recover her lost memories and learn what it means to be something other than human.

In American Vampire writer Scott Synder and artist Rafael Albuquerque have taken the classic vampire mythos and added more than a dash of grit and grime. The stories of their characters play out over the history of America, moving deftly back and forward in time to key moments in their personal histories, and different eras in the history of the nation. Even if you don’t normally read graphic novels, give this series a try. The first volume even includes a story from Mr. King!

There’s a lot of great vampire fiction out there, so I would love to hear about more of it—conventional or not!


-Scott P.




Filed under Uncategorized

Shirt Pocket Notes

Nobody asked me, but…

  • Reading Robert Graves’ The White Goddess requires a lot of work! His explorations into the sources behind Western poetry and poetic mythology remain tantalizingly inaccessible to casual reading. I feel like you have to really commit yourself to get the most out of Graves’ sometimes meandering, but always erudite, prose.
  • I know others have written far more eloquently about H Is For Hawk here and elsewhere, but author Helen Macdonald’s powerful style really grabbed me when I happened to idly pick the book up the other day. Her journey into falconry included the extremely difficult task of training a goshawk named Mabel. Forging a rapport with this magnificent bird provides the backdrop for Macdonald’s deeply personal struggle with the unexpected death of her beloved father.
  • With the Pittsburgh Pirates again on the precipice of making the MLB playoffs, I find myself wanting to read more about their storied history. A Pirate Life by Steve Blass will be my next port of call when I’ve cleared the decks of my other reading obligations. Mr. Blass is class personified, and his book offers a sometimes funny, sometimes sad look into the life of a major league baseball pitcher in the 1960s.
  • As we now head into the fall season, I find myself wanting to get out and do more hiking. Glen Scherer’s excellent Hikes In The Mid-Atlantic States: Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York offers a host of great day-hikes within fairly easy driving distance of Pittsburgh.
  • Fall being my favorite season, I thought it might be nice to finish this little post with an affirming quote from Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

–Scott P.



Filed under Uncategorized

Mountains Cold And Dark…

Often librarians act in a reader’s advisory capacity–we suggest cool books and other materials for our patrons to check out. When a patron rolls up to the desk and hits me with a title we don’t currently have, but one that immediately inspires me to seek it out, the script flips. Suddenly I’m getting the cool suggestions. Things went down this way about a week ago when a patron schooled me on the Dyatlov Pass incident. This 1959 Soviet-era mountaineering disaster occurred under such bizarre and creepy circumstances, I am mystified I have lived this long and not read or heard about it until last week. As an avid hiker and EMS provider, the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these nine hikers fills me with a macabre mix of dread and curiosity.

If you find yourself interested in learning more right away, I can recommend one book on the tragedy that we do own:

Dead-Mountain-cover Dead Mountain: The Untold Story Of The Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar.  We also offer an eBook version and you can find that on eCLP here.

Now to cover a couple of books we don’t have yet. In discussing the available materials we might acquire on Interlibrary Loan (ILL), I found two excellent prospects: Dyatlov Pass Keeps Its Secrets by Irina Lobatcheva and Mountain Of The Dead: The Dyatlov Pass Incident by Keith McCloskey. Spurred to action by my script-flipping patron, I’ve placed orders for these books so that other folks in our system will soon have access to them. How a mystery like this endures for so many decades, even in the face of multiple investigations, becomes part of its mystique. Anyone who spends any time in the wild will shudder when reading Dead Mountain. The gaps that remain in the story of how these young trekkers perished those many decades ago make it more fearsome. Unknowable things often conjure dread. Plunging yourself into the events surrounding the Dyatlov Pass incident will only reaffirm this.

–Scott P.


Filed under Uncategorized

Nobody Asked Me, But…

Borrowing this rhetorical device from my all-time favorite sports columnist, Bob Smizik, I will use my blog slot this time around hit on a few unrelated points. A bit of this, and a bit of that. So here goes!

* Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers a Book A Librarian service! Do you need a one-on-one, one hour consultation with a skilled information professional? Just fill out the form the link takes you to and await our reply!

* Haiku writing / A discipline for all time / Inch worm

Ant-Man is out and you’ve seen it! Now what? Read some classic Avengers tales involving the original Ant Man, Hank Pym! I recommend this amazing collection!

* Our Overdrive eBook collection now features roughly 17,000 titles available in the epub and Kindle formats! They make ideal summer vacation reading solutions!

* A colleague and I were talking sci-fi and she recommended James S. A. Corey’s Leviathon Wakes to me. Fair warning–this could spawn another Dune post!



1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tumblr’ing Toward Ecstasy

Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress. You can do a ton with it—this blog proves that! In spite of the versatility of WordPress, Tumblr remains my social media platform of choice for sharing my obsessions.

Hiking, haiku, gaming or what have you—Tumblr’s easy-to-use-and-customize online publishing tools let you share your interests with the wider world. We’ve got a few nice books on Tumblr that can help you get started, but keep in mind, the site changes all of the time, and new features crop up regularly!

Tackling Tumblr by Thord D. Hedengren

Tumblr For Dummies by Sue Jenkins

Sams Teach Yourself Tumblr In 10 Minutes by Bud E. Smith

If you’re anything like me, you might need a brush-up on your digital photography skills, and we’ve got that covered too!

Camera And Craft: Learning The Technical Art Of Digital Photography by Andy Batt

Your Photos Stink: David Busch’s Lessons In Elevating Your Photography From Awful To Awesome by David Busch

Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long

While Tumblr ranks as one of the easiest blogging platforms available, this wikiHow provides a nice visual step-by-step on getting started. Tumblr offers an amazing way to share your interests with the world, and every now and then, one of your images might wind up on one of their login screens!


Hey, if you post enough, you can be Internet-famous too!

-Scott P.


Filed under Uncategorized

Life, Death, And Drones

I’ve got a keen interest in all things EMS. A while back I came across this article from Britain’s Daily Mail citing the proposed use of AED drones to save the lives of patients experiencing cardiac emergencies. Amazing! The next few years will likely see the proliferation of drone technology in all walks of modern society. Right now we best know the drone for its darker role–unmanned weapon of choice in our long running conflict against asymmetrical actors at home and abroad.  War is terrible no matter what weapons you use to wage it. Right now drones act at the spear-point in this struggle, but they can and will be much more than just weapons.

They will become part of the framework of our society. Need proof? Amazon’s on the case. Also check this news story out. Want more proof? At some point soon, we’ll even have a Drones For Dummies book on our shelves. You can check that out with your copy of Crocheting For Dummies.

If you’re interested in bringing yourself up to speed on drones and drone warfare, CLP provides a lot of great material! Here’s a short list:


A Theory Of The Drone by Grégoire Chamayou  (2015)

Kill Chain : The Rise Of The High-Tech Assassins by Andrew Cockburn (2015)

Hunter Killer : Inside America’s Unmanned Air War by T. Mark McCurley (2014)

Unmanned : Drone Warfare And Global Security by Ann Rogers (2014)

Predator : The Secret Origins Of The Drone Revolution by Richard Whittle (2014)


Sting Of The Drone  by Richard A. Clarke  (2014)

Blue Warrior by Mike Maden (2014)

Drones most often conjure images of war and death; five years from now, who knows?

–Scott P.

Unmanned-cov Theory-Drone-cov Sting-cov Pred-cover Kill-Chain-cover Hunter-cov Blue-cov



1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Great Movie Chases

A couple of weeks back the blog writers had a phenomenal email exchange regarding suggested movie titles for a post.  We batted around titles of action movies with “smart” plots. The first movie that came to my mind was John Frankenheimer’s brilliant 1998 thriller, Ronin. What do you get when you combine the director of The French Connection II and Robert De Niro? Movie magic. With De Niro still at the height of his powers, Ronin explores the dark underside of European terrorism and the deeds of a CIA agent gone rogue. It also features an amazing car chase. It easily matches Gene Hackman’s epic chase scene in The French Connection.

Of course, thinking of suspenseful and thrilling chases also brings to mind the incredible foot chase from the opening minutes of Casino Royale, where a distinctly chiseled Daniel Craig as James Bond pursues a bomb maker through, over, and around a construction site. It features breathtaking parkour stunts and action.

Thelma & Louise will resonate with many readers. It does with me. The extreme pursuit scene that serves as the movie’s climax ranks as one of the great exits in movie history.

If you’re anything like the Eleventh Stack blog team, you’ll have your own opinions on your top movie chase scenes–we’d love to hear about them!

–Scott P.



Filed under Uncategorized

Books On Comics On Film

If you’re a regular reader of this blog it will come as no surprise to you that I love the current spate of superhero movies and television shows. Comic book fans live in a golden age of media where this stuff just seems to get better and better, and something new and exciting waits around each new turn of the calendar–I’m looking at you, Suicide Squad! In the meantime, if you like this stuff too, and you’re anything like me, you want to interact with it beyond the movie itself. This might include playing a tabletop or video game based on a particular superhero movie, chatting about it in online forums or on social media, or maybe reading a book about it! Yes, most big superhero movies generate a number of interesting, printed products that ride along with the film and add further details and insight.

My current favorite of this crop of books is The Art Of Guardians Of The Galaxy. Yes, I know I mention the movie a lot. No, Guardians director James Gunn does not pay me $25 every time I mention it in one of these posts. Anyway, books like this one provide insight into the design process behind these amazing movies, and they give us an inkling into how much energy and work went into making them great. Check out this scan from the book:


It’s amazing to track the development of a character like Rocket from the comic books, to the graphic artist board of the movie illustrators, to the actual screen.

Here’s a short list of a few other “Art Of…” titles from various superhero franchises:

Captain America: The First Avenger

The Art Of Marvel: The Avengers 

The Art Of Marvel Iron Man 3 

The Art And Making Of The Dark Knight Trilogy 

A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into these amazing films, and these books provide us a window into that complex world of concepts and pre-production we might otherwise never see.

–Scott P.



Filed under Uncategorized

Opinions, Assemble!

I saw Avengers: Age Of Ultron this past Sunday. Brilliant! A movie with so many important characters and so much action and CGI runs a real risk of becoming a hot mess. Like a great symphony conductor, Joss Whedon kept this film moving, hit all of the right notes, and gave just about every character at least one moment to shine. Movies with large ensemble casts need just the right pacing and attention to detail to pull this off. Being a big Hawkeye fan, I was floored that he played such a pivotal role in the film and enjoyed so many amazing moments. Jeremy Renner did a superb job capturing Hawkeye’s core conceit–the “normal dude” among godlike beings–normal being a relative thing in this case.

Seeing Age of Ultron marks a good time to go back and assess my top three superhero films of recent memory, and just to add a bit of spice, I will throw in my bottom three as well!

Top Three

Guardians Of The Galaxy. Guardians masterfully blends sci-fi and superheroes and only gets better with repeated viewings.

Iron Man. The first Iron Man film remains the best as Robert Downey, Jr. forges the role he was born to play.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I loved the first Cap movie, but Winter Soldier establishes Captain America as Marvel’s paragon of what’s best in a hero.

Honorable MentionThor. Chris Hemsworth is The God of Thunder, and his chemistry with Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) flows so naturally it adds a lovely bit of romance to the rollicking action.

Bottom Three

X-Men: The Last Stand. Everything Joss Whedon did right in Age Of Ultron, Brett Ratner did wrong in this hot mess–uneven script, key action occurring off-screen, and not enough special moments for characters.

Superman Returns. Watch this one up to the point where Supes saves the space-plane, then turn if off and put in the original Superman with Chris Reeves and Brando–it’s Supes vs. a bad real estate scheme in both films.

Punisher: War ZoneCosmic villain Galactus has a robotic watchdog named the Punisher; I wish this movie was about him.

Dishonorable Mention: Fantastic 4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer. Significant divergences from the comic book versions of Dr. Doom, Galactus, and the Surfer himself helped ruin this poorly paced film for me.

–Scott P.





Filed under Uncategorized