college classroom 2015
Today is the First Day of classes at my College. I’ve been teaching for over 30 years yet the excitement of meeting students for the first time still is a thrill. Many of my students are older (our average student’s age is 26). Some have lost their jobs and are returning to College for retraining. Some students are recovering from broken marriages, divorces, and failed relationships. Whatever their motivation, many of the students I meet today desperately want to learn how to be successful after experiencing its opposite. And I will try my best to help show them how to make Better Decisions with the New Knowledge I present each class.


I’ve been reading Richard Schickel’s movie reviews for decades. Schickel is the movie reviewer at TIME magazine. I’ve always found Schickel’s reviews to be even-handed and perceptive. in Keepers, Schickel reminisces about his long career watching movies and picks films that he thinks are the greatest. As you would expect, Schickel’s choices are quirky. He considers Disney’s Pinocchio to be a masterpiece. Schickel loves King Kong. He thinks Henry Fonda is the best actor of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Schickel’s favorite movie is Fargo. His favorite movie star is Errol Flynn. There are plenty of insights gained over a long career of sitting in the dark and watching movies. You’ll want to go back and watch many of the films Schickel writes about in Keepers. GRADE: A
Notes Toward the Definition of an Obsession
Speaking of Silence
The System
Men with Movie Cameras
A Studio’s Way
“The Son of a Gun Is Nothing but a Tailor”
A Touch of Lubitsch
Two Cheers for Mr. Muckle
Shrieks, Freaks, Geeks
What’s Funny About That?
Ornaments of the Age
“Up This Hero Goes”
Getting Serious
Don’t You Know There’s a War On?
Children of Paradise
Crime Waves
Why We Fight
Muse of Fire
Here’s Looking at You, Kid
The Best Years
Fasten Your Seat Belts
Don’t Unfasten Those Seat Belts Yet
Mixed Baggage
To Live
At Last
The Criminal Life
Belle de Jour
The Apu Trilogy
Strange Loves
Getting Started, or, I Thought You’d Never Ask
The Wrath of God
Or Is It His Silence?
Earning It, or, Spielberg’s Way
Clint Again
Tarnished Gold
Kubrick Again
The Force Is with Us
Losing It
“No Animals Were Harmed…”
We’ve Got to End Somewhere
That Wonderful Year


I know it’s hard to believe but Bob Dylan’s classic Highway 61 Revisited is 50 years old today. It was released on August 30, 1965. This is the first rock album I ever bought. I played it until the grooves wore out. A couple months later, Bob Dylan and The Band arrived in Buffalo, NY at Kleinhans Music Hall (where the Buffalo Philharmonic plays) and this was my first rock concert. Dylan played his acoustic guitar for the first half of the concert singing songs like “Blowing In the Wind” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” After the Intermission, trouble started.

Dylan came out with The Band and started to play “Like a Rolling Stone.” Some of the audience booed. A guy with a cow-bell caused a scene. But, working Security for this concert was a local contingent of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. They left their front row seats and settled the angry elements of the crowd down. Fast. The concert proceeded without incident and it was magical. Do you have any Bob Dylan memories?
Side one
1. “Like a Rolling Stone” 6:13
2. “Tombstone Blues” 6:00
3. “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” 4:09
4. “From a Buick 6″ 3:19
5. “Ballad of a Thin Man” 5:58
Side two
1. “Queen Jane Approximately” 5:31
2. “Highway 61 Revisited” 3:30
3. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” 5:32
4. “Desolation Row” 11:21


faded gloryville
You’ll hear a hint of Dolly Parton’s voice in Lindi Ortega’s singing and that’s a Good Thing. I enjoyed this CD full of love songs. It’s been years since I’ve heard a cover of the Bee Gee’s “To Love Someone” but Lindi Ortega gives the song a nice spin. She has an edge, too. Just listen to “I Ain’t The Girl.” I can’t wait to hear Lindi Ortega’s next album! GRADE: B+
1.”Ashes” (Linda Ortega, James Robertson) 4:35
2.”Faded Gloryville” (Ortega) 3:12
3.”Tell It Like It Is” (Ortega) 3:46
4.”Someday Soon” (Ortega, John Paul White) 3:36
5.”To Love Somebody” (Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb) 3:27
6.”When You Ain’t Home” (Ortega, Brice Long) 3:41
7.”Run-Down Neighborhood” (Ortega, Bruce Wallace) 3:07
8.”I Ain’t The Girl” (Ortega) 3:25
9.”Run Amuck” (Ortega, Tofer Brown) 4:19
10.”Half Moon” (Ortega, Dan Brigham, Trent Dabbs) 3:22


mcbain's ladies 2
A few weeks ago, I reviewed McBain’s Ladies, a compilation of scenes from McBain’s 87th Precinct series. You can read that review here. Jeff Meyerson commented that there was a sequel, McBain’s Ladies, Too. I never knew about the sequel so I tracked it down online. And, I’m so glad I did! McBain’s Ladies, Too includes a snarky “Introduction” by Ed McBain. He explains why McBain’s Ladies didn’t have an “Introduction” (McBain didn’t think the book needed one). But various reviewers made comments about McBain’s Ladies (some suggesting McBain knew nothing about women). McBain’s response is clever and enlightening. It shows another side of McBain that I hadn’t seen before. If you’re a fan of Ed McBain’s work, I highly recommend that you read the “Introduction.” The rest of the book is vintage 87th Precinct.

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #55: All the Love – The Lost Atlantic Recordings By Jackie DeShannon

jackie deshannon
Jackie DeShannon had hits with Liberty Records in the Sixties like “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” and “When You Walk in the Room.” Later, she wrote the hit “Bette Davis Eyes.” But in between, Jackie DeShannon signed a contract with Atlantic Records in 1972 and wrote songs with Van Morrison. Those Atlantic recordings are now available on this recent release. If you’re a fan of Jackie DeShannon, this is a must-buy. If you’re looking for some vintage music from the Seventies, this CD is worth a listen. GRADE: B+
1. When I’m Gone
2. Drift Away
3. All The Love That’s In You
4. Speak Out To Me
5. Hydra
6. Your Old Lady’s Leaving
7. Grand Canyon Blues
8. Sweet Soul Singer (Unreleased)
9. Good Old Song (Unreleased)
10. Easy Evil (Unreleased)
11. If You Like My Music (Unreleased)
12. Free The People (Unreleased)
13. Spare Me A Little of Your Love (Unreleased)
14. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (Unreleased)
15. Sweet Sixteen
16. Flamingos Fly
17. Santa Fe
18. The Wonder Of You


This has been the Summer of Repairs for us. First, it was our Sears Craftsman lawn mower (10-years-old) that needed a new wheel. Then our garage door opener died (18-years-old). We decided to replace the garage door (28-years-old) with a new, insulated garage door. Now, we’re dealing with a broken dryer. Our Maytag dryer (13=years-old) started making squeaking noises. Diane told me she sensed a “burning smell,” too. So we had the dryer fix-it guy come out. He said the motor needed replacing. We said, okay.

The next day, the dryer guy showed up and after about 5 minutes he announced, “They sent me the wrong dryer motor.” So now we’re playing the Waiting Game. Have you had any repairs done this Summer? What kind of experience did you have?


DC Comics is attempting to attract a younger audience with these animated features. Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem is the sequel to Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts that I reviewed here. In this episode, the Joker with the help of Scarecrow, Clayface, Silver Banshee and Solomon Grundy terrorize Gotham City. I’m convinced that these animated films “orientate” new audience to the DC Universe and introduce characters (mostly villains) to the new viewers. If you’re a fan of Batman, you’ll enjoy this. GRADE: B


I’m a sucker for a book like Michael Dirda’s BROWSINGS: A YEAR OF READING, COLLECTING, AND LIVING WITH BOOKS . The America Scholar invited Dirda to submit a short post on books to their website on a weekly basis. So Browsings collects all those posts, 600 to 1800 words, in a compact volume. Dirda writes about his favorite books, his success at finding books at Library Sales, the changes in modern publishing, and praises small presses. This is a perfect book to dip into for wonderful writing and suggestions on what to read next. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
Table of Contents
1. Mr. Zinsser, I presume
2. Style is the man
3. Armchair adventures
4. Bookish pets
5. Paper
6. This is a column
7. Scribble, scribble
8. Books on books
9. Text mess
10. Twilight of an author
11. Spring book sales
12. Memories of Marseille
13. Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
14. Synonym toast
15. Cowboys and clubmen
16. Grades
17. Anglophilia
18. After the golden age
19. Anthologies and collections
20. Rocky Mountain low
21. The fugitive
22. Hot enough for you?
23. Wonder books
24. Readercon
25. Aurora
26. Out of print
27. Thrift stories
28. Musical chairs
29. The evidence in the (book) case
30. Charlottesville
31. Then and now
32. Mencken day
33. New and old
34. Dirty pictures
35. Going, going, gone
36. Castles in space
37. Waving, not drowning
38. Oberlin
39. Jacques Barzun, and others
40. What’s in a name?
41. Language matters
42. “I’m done”
43. Poe and Baudelaire
44. In praise of small presses
45. Christmas reading
46. Books for the holidays
47. Let us now praise Dover Books
48. A dreamer’s tale
49. Money
50. Book projects
51. Ending up
52. A positively, final appearance
53. Afterword.

KOP By Warren Hammond

The website SF SIGNAL had a list of “favorite” SF mystery stories. You can check out the list here. The only book on the list I hadn’t read was Warren Hammond’s KOP. The action is set on an earth-like planet called Lagarto. The planet used to make money exporting a unique brandy. But tastes change and the brandy no longer generates the great wealth it used to. The planet slips into poverty and corruption. Juno is a corrupt cop but he is loyal to his friend who runs the KOP police department. There’s a series murders, some double-dealing, and a not very surprising ending. I was not impressed by KOP. GRADE: C