H.P. LOVECRAFT’S THE CALL OF CTHULHU (for beginning readers) By R. J. Ivankovic


R. J. Ivankovic presents the cosmic horror of Cthulhu for young people (and those young at heart) in his entertaining H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu (for beginning readers) (2017). Mimicking Dr. Seuss, Ivankovic imitates the drawing style and the rimes of those classic children’s books like The Cat in the Hat. Ivankovic follows the iconic Lovecraft story and manages to infuse the pages of his innovative book with dread.

I found the whole experience of reading H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu (for beginning readers) entertaining and fun! Are you a fan of Lovecraft and Cthulhu? GRADE: A

PETER WHITE CHRISTMAS CONCERT


I’m a big fan of Peter White, the Smooth Jazz guitarist and record producer. White’s Christmas Concert featured plenty of fun music and three guests: saxophonist Euge Groove, singer Lindsey Webster, and multi-talented Vincent Ingala (sax, guitar, and bells). I had no idea Peter White wrote “Wonderful Christmastime,” a popular Holiday song. If Peter White and his crew shows up in your neighborhood, I recommend you buy some tickets to one of the better Christmas shows around. Do you have a favorite Holiday song? GRADE: A

SET LIST:
The Little Drummer Boy
(The Trapp Family Singers cover) (with Lindsey Webster & Euge Groove)

O Tannenbaum
(with Lindsey Webster & Euge Groove)

This Christmas
(Donny Hathaway cover) (with Euge Groove)

Home for the Holidays
(Perry Como cover) (with Vincent Ingala)

Christmastime Is Here
(Vince Guaraldi Trio cover) (with Euge Groove)

Wonderful Christmastime
(Paul McCartney cover) (with Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove)

O Christmas Tree
(with Vincent Angala & Euge Groove)

Jingle Bell Rock
(Bobby Helms cover) (with & Euge Groove)

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
(Brenda Lee cover) (with Lindsey Webster & Euge Groove)

Run Rudolph Run
(Chuck Berry cover) (with Vincent Angala & Euge Groove)

Jingle Bells
(James Lord Pierpont cover) (with Lindsey Webster)

Go Tell It On the Mountain
(with Vincent Angala & Euge Groove)

White Christmas
(Irving Berlin cover) (with Lindsey Webster, Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove; sung acapella)

Silent Night
(Joseph Mohr & Franz Gruber cover) (with Euge Groove)

Sleigh Ride
(with Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove)

The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)
(Mel Tormé cover) (with Euge Groove)

INTERMISSION
Blue Christmas
(Doye O’Dell cover) (with Euge Groove)

Livin’ Large
(Euge Groove cover) (with Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove)

Bueno Funk / Get Up, Stand Up / Bueno Funk
(with Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove)

Grazing in the Grass / Chinese Dance from “The Nutcracker Suite” / Groovin’ / Just My Imagination / Shotgun / Grazing in the Grass (reprise)
(with Lindsey Webster, Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove)

Santa Claus is Coming to Town / Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
(with Lindsey Webster, Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove)

ENCORE
So This Is Christas/Oh, Holy Night
(John Lennon cover) (with Lindsey Webster, Vincent Ingala & Euge Groove)

THE LANGUAGE WARS: A HISTORY OF PROPER ENGLISH By Henry Hitchings


Henry Hitching’s The Language Wars (2011) provides an entertaining history of development of the English Language. Yes, Shakespeare had a big impact on the English Language, but so did Dr. Johnson and Thomas Hobbes. Hitching’s examples of various handbooks and dictionaries show how change in language occurs. My favorite example concerns Webster’s Third dictionary:

“In Rex Stout’s 1962 detective novel Gambit the hero, Nero Wolfe, feeds the pages of this ‘intolerably offensive’ work into a fire. The reason for this topical gesture? Webster’s Third fails to uphold the distinction between imply and infer. Since the two volumes comprised more than 2,700 pages and cost $47.50, Wolf’s was an expensive and time-consuming expression of disgust.” (p. 232)

If you’re interested in England Language history and development, Henry Hitching’s The Language Wars both enlightens and amuses. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1 ‘To boldly go’ p. 1
2 The survival machine p. 15
3 The emergence of English p. 26
4 From Queen Elizabeth to John Locke p. 37
5 Hitting le jackpot p. 51
6 The rough magic of English spelling p. 61
7 The many advantages of a good language p. 76
8 ‘Bishop Lowth was a fool’ p. 88
9 O my America, my new found land! p. 104
10 The long shadow of Lindley Murray p. 122
11 The pedigree of nations p. 133
12 Of fish-knives and fist-fucks p. 143
13 ‘Our blood, our language, our institutions’ p. 161
14 Organizing the Victorian treasure-house p. 170
15 The warden of English p. 182
16 ‘Speak that I may see thee’ p. 191
17 Talking proper p. 203
18 The alphabet and the goddess p. 215
19 Modern life is rubbish p. 227
20 Unholy shit p. 237
21 ‘It’s English-Only here’ p. 252
22 The comma flaps its wings p. 261
23 Flaunting the rules p. 270
24 Technology says ‘whatever’ p. 290
25 ‘Conquer English to Make China Strong’ p. 300
26 What do we do with the flowing face of nature? p. 310
27 Such, such are the joys p. 321
28 Envoi p. 333
Acknowledgements p. 337
Notes p. 339
Bibliography of works consulted p. 365
Index p. 391

BALTIMORE RAVENS VS. BUFFALO BILLS


The surprising 9-3 Buffalo Bills take on the mighty 10-2 Baltimore Ravens today. The Ravens have won 8 straight games. The Bills are 6-point underdogs at home. The weather will be balmy for December in Buffalo: 45 and sunny. There might be a bit of a wind problem, however. How will your favorite NFL team perform today?

KNIVES OUT


Rian Johnson wrote and directed this classic whodunit mystery movie. Johnson admits he’s a huge fan of Agatha Christie so Knives Out can be considered a homage to Hercule Poirot–with a Southern twist. Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a quirky master detective with a Southern accent. Blanc is hired by an anonymous client to investigate the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a wildly rich and successful mystery writer. Thrombey’s greedy family all show up for the reading of his will. That scene sets off the action for the rest of the movie. Thrombey’s real-estate daughter, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), and her straying husband Richard (Don Johnson) have plenty of motive. Thrombey’s son, Walt (Michael Shannon), faces losing his publishing income from his father’s books. Thrombey’s younger daughter, Joni (Toni Collette), and Thrombey’s wayward grandson, Ransom (Chris Evans) must deal with the prospect that the monthly checks will disappear.

I particularly liked the performance of Ana de Armas who plays Marta, Harlan Thrombey’s good-hearted nurse. Marta almost always tells the truth, but when she tells a lie…she pukes! Very funny and cunning. If you’re looking for a movie in the tradition of Murder On the Orient Express and Death On the Nile, you’ll find delight with Knives Out. GRADE: A-

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #570: THE COLUMBO COLLECTION By William Link


Recently, I saw a dinner theater performance of Prescription for Murder: Columbo (you can read my review here). After enjoying the play, I remembered I had a copy of the Crippen & Landru’s The Columbo Collection by William Link. A quick search of my shelves produced the volume and I immediately read it. If you’re a fan of Columbo, you’ll enjoy these stories that provide plenty of puzzles for Columbo to solve in his unique style. William Link’s “Foreword” provides plenty of detail on how Link and Richard Levinson conjured up Columbo. Link’s relationship with Peter Falk adds more insight into the series and its sustained popularity with viewers. All in all, The Columbo Collection delivers entertainment and humor. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreword 9
The criminal criminal attorney — 23
Grief — 64
A dish best served cold — 93
Ricochet — 122
Scout’s honor — 160
Sucker punch — 200
The blackest mail — 231
The gun that wasn’t — 278
Requiem for a hitman — 307
Trance — 349
Murder allegro — 389
Photo finish — 427

WILDCARD By Miranda Lambert


I’m not a big Country music fan, but I listen to the music from time to time. Miranda Lambert attracted my attention because her parents were private investigators who sometimes used young Miranda in their work. Miranda’s new CD, Wildcard, garnered some mixed reviews because of the “pop” elements that Country purists found objectionable. For example, “Mess With My Head” is more Rock & Roll than country (take a listen below). But, by and large, Lambert delivers enough Country songs on this CD to satisfy most of the genre’s listeners. I enjoyed the variety of songs on Wildcard. Are you a Miranda Lambert fan? GRADE: B
TRACK LIST:
White Trash
Mess with My Head
It All Comes Out in the Wash
Settling Down
Holy Water
Way Too Pretty for Prison
Locomotive
Bluebird
How Dare You Love
Fire Escape
Pretty Bitchin’
Tequila Does
Track Record
Dark Bars

AN ACADEMIC LIFE: A MEMOIR By Hanna Holborn Gray


Hanna Holborn Gray was the first female President of the University of Chicago. But, the journey to that esteemed position passes through plenty of trouble. In 1934, Hanna and her family flee Germany as Hitler comes to power. Hanna lands in Britain where she learns English and adapts to life in the UK. Hanna’s father manages to get a teaching job at Yale University and the family moves again. Life in New Haven manages to be both exciting and dull at the same time. Hanna wants to live in New York City. Despite her initial resistance, Hanna decides she’ll pursue an academic life like her father did. She departs from her father’s career path when she becomes the first female Provost at Yale.

An Academic Life shows the resistance universities had to women teachers and administrators. Hanna Holborn Gray struggles to change the “Old Boys” club and be recognized for her accomplishments. I found her story compelling and inspiring. You would, too. GRADE: A-

PRESCRIPTION FOR MURDER: COLUMBO


Richard Levinson and William Link wrote a short story in the 1950s, “May I Come In?” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine under the title, “Dear Corpus Delecti”). That short story was adapted by The Chevy Mystery Show in 1960 under the title “Enough Rope.” Two years later, Levinson and Link’s play, Prescription For Murder, opened at the Curran Theater in San Francisco. The play was not successful, but when it went on tour, Link says, “It made a fortune.”

Columbo became part of the NBC Mystery Movie series from 1971 to 1978. Bing Crosby was the first choice for the role. When Bing turned it down, Lee J. Cobb was approached. He had no interest. Peter Falk was hired and told Link, “I would kill to play that cop.” Falk went on to win four Emmys for his portrayal of Lieutenant Frank Columbo.

Diane and I saw Prescription for Murder: Columbo at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre in Cheektowaga, a Buffalo suburb. The local actors who put on the play were competent and occasionally clever. The play presents the murder of a wife by her psychiatrist husband. It looks like a perfect crime, but Columbo slowly unravels the scheme. We enjoy the production and would come back in the future. Do you have a favorite episode of Columbo? GRADE: B+

FROZEN 2


The Wall Street Journal critic who reviewed Frozen 2 said it best: “Frozen 2 left me cold.” Same here. Yes, the production is fun and aimed at a younger audience. The music is okay, but there’s no “Let It Go” hit to excite the audience. There really isn’t any villain in the thin plot so most of this movie is reduced to series of funny and not so funny scenes. Sometimes, you can’t go home again. Are you a Frozen fan? GRADE: C+
TRACK LIST:
1. “All Is Found” Evan Rachel Wood 2:05
2. “Some Things Never Change” Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff and cast of Frozen 2 3:29
3. “Into the Unknown” Menzel featuring Aurora 3:14
4. “When I Am Older” Gad 1:51
5. “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” (cont.) Groff 0:26
6. “Lost in the Woods” Groff 3:00
7. “Show Yourself” Menzel and Wood 4:20
8. “The Next Right Thing” Bell 3:36
9. “Into the Unknown” (end credits) Panic! at the Disco 3:09
10. “All Is Found” (end credits) Kacey Musgraves 3:03
11. “Lost in the Woods” (end credits)