Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Moss paints a grim portrait of our food industries in Salt, Sugar, Fat. Food scientists calculate a food’s “bliss point” so those who eat the product want to eat more. In fact, manipulating salt, sugar, and fat generates billions in profits (and a trillion dollars in sales) for General Mills, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Frito-Lay, Nestle, Cargil, and Pillsbury. The downside of all this food processing is that one in three U. S. adults are obese. Over 26 million Americans have diabetes (and that number is growing fast). What most impressed me about Moss’s book is the story of the research that goes into creating a new food product. Nutrition is an afterthought. The goal is for the consumer to EAT MORE. Salt, Sugar, Fat shows the nation’s health crisis will worsen. This is an important book! GRADE: A
Star Trek Into Darkness continues the J. J. Abrams “reboot” of the classic SF series. In the first new Star Trek movie, Abrams played around with that universe and came up with an innovative solution to making the series “new.” Now, in the second movie, the crew of the Enterprise battles an old enemy (at least in Star Trek universe terms). Frankly, I thought Star Trek Into Darkness is inferior to the first film. There are some glaring problems. Are there only two Star Fleet starships? That’s all we see. Where are Earth’s defenses? . Benedict Cumberbatch, the villain, needed a bigger part. I’m hoping he returns in a future Star Trek movie. Star Trek Into Darkness is what it is: a noisy, action-packed Summer blockbuster. GRADE: B+
Everyone admits that World War I was an “accidental” war. Like a set of dominoes, country after country fell into the conflict whether they wanted to or not. Christopher Clark’s magnificent history of World War I, The Sleepwalkers, vividly shows how governments can be as stupid as people and make horrifically Bad Choices. Clark’s detailed portrayal of the step-by-step lunacy that lead to one of the deadliest wars in history will fascinate and chill every reader. How could those political leaders and governments and military heads get sucked into such a disaster? The Sleepwalkers proves it was easy. GRADE: A
If you’re a fan of Frank Zappa’s orchestral works, or the best of King Crimson, or Pink Floyd you’ll probably enjoy Jaga Jazzist’s blend of jazz and orchestra music. Jaga Jazzist is a group from Norway. On this new CD, they work with England’s Britten Symphonia to produce some unusual music. Check out the sample below.
I’m sure many of you thought you’d be reading a review of Star Trek Into Darkness, but no…we are in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University for Patrick’s graduation. There are three ceremonies: the PhD hooding ceremony (where Patrick officially becomes Dr. Kelley, Version 2.0), tomorrow’s university-wide graduation, and the Computer Science Department’s ceremony. We’re also attending a brunch at Patrick’s dissertation Co-Chair’s home. Diane, Katie, and I are extremely proud of Patrick’s accomplishments. Anyone who’s been through a doctoral program knows how much work is involved. Congratulations, Patrick!
Our best wishes go out to Ed Gorman for a quick recovery. In the March issue of Mystery Scene magazine, Ed wrote an article on “My 10 Favorite John D. MacDonald Standalone Novels.” And here’s the list:
1. Dead Low Tide
2. Soft Touch
3. Deadly Welcome
4. Murder in the Wind
5. The Executioners
6. Slam the Big Door
7. The End of the Night
8. A Key to the Suite
9. A Flash of Green
10. The Drowner
This week, we’re up to Number Four: Murder in the Wind (aka, Hurricane). In this 1956 thriller, John D. MacDonald employs one of his patented plot devices–throw some troubled characters together and threaten them with an outside force. JDM comes up with a major hurricane that forces 13 (unlucky number!) people traveling in the storm to hunker down in an abandoned old house. The hurricane, a murder, and the tension among the strangers makes Murder in the Wind one of JDM’s most suspenseful novels.
I’ve suffered from allergies for decades. In the 1990s, I was so wracked by allergy symptoms I went to an allergist who tested me. Cats, molds, pollen, and grasses scored highest as allergens that triggered my watery eyes, runny nose, constant sneezing, and asthma. After 10 years of getting the allergy shots, I was finally partially desensitized so I wasn’t getting sick every Spring and Fall (my worst allergy seasons). But this Spring has been rough for allergy sufferers in Western New York. Pollen counts have been at record levels. A few weeks ago, I starting taking my Allegra and have escaped the torments many of my friends are dealing with. Claritin and Zyrtec do not work for me. Benadryl works for me, but puts me right to sleep. But Allegra relieves my allergy symptoms without drowsiness or other side-effects. If you have allergy problems, consider trying Allegra.
Part detective story, part family history, part quest to understand the enormity of the Holocaust, Daniel Mendelsohn’s brilliant The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million finds a unique way to show us the fate of one family. Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series, mentioned The Lost in a New York Times interview. I had a copy of The Lost, but somehow this book got lost in the various stacks of books around my house. After a lengthy search, I unearthed The Lost and plunged right in. At first, Mendelsohn’s method of investigation–detailed and precise–takes some getting used to. But once I figured out Mendelsohn’s approach, the pages flew by. Taking this micro approach to the Holocaust, showing what happened to just one family amid the millions, makes understanding clearer. I highly recommend The Lost and I want to thank Lee Child for his recommendation.
Scott & Bailey is a British crime series that has been called “Cagney & Lacey with Constables.” Set in Manchester, Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay play police detectives who investigate crimes against women. Box sets of the series are available but they are formatted for the UK. Jeff Meyerson knows how to get DVD players to play UK DVD disks. But, if you don’t want to hassle with that, you can watch the Scott & Bailey episodes on the KPBS web site which offers a streaming service. If you’re in the mood for a gritty police drama with some very intriguing women characters, Scott & Bailey fits the bill. You can read the New York Times take on Scott & Bailey here.
I attended a book sale at our local history museum and found a set of Ellery Queen’s Masterpieces of Mystery Series. This was a series of hardcovers put out by Davis Publications in the 1970s. This set was in good shape: gorgeous red leatherette volumes with gilt decor and b/w photos of authors. The deal in the book sale was that you could buy a shopping bag for $5 and fill the bag with as many books as you could cram into it. It took me two shopping bags to get all of the Masterpieces of Mystery loaded. It was a steal at $10. I’ve seen sets of Masterpieces of Mystery going for $189 on eBay and $350 on ABE. This set is a browser’s delight!
Included in this set:
The Superslueths Revisited-1979
The Grand Masters-1976
The Grand Masters up to Date-1979
More From The Sixties-1979
Detective Directory part 1-1977
Detective Directory part 2-1978
The Golden Age part 1-1977
The Golden Age part 2-1977
Blue Ribbon Specials-1978
The Old Masters-1978
Amateurs & Professionals-1978
Stories Not To Be Missed-1978